Sunday, February 26, 2012


Noon Position: 48 49' S, 30 11' W, SOG 5.5, COG 090, Day's Run 149nm.
This morning's entertainment has been a pleasing mixture of 20kts of
wind with scattered clouds and hourly 40kt squalls, the contents of
which would euphemistically described in New England as "wintry mix."
Here in the South Atlantic, I prefer to just call it snow... followed by
very cold rain... followed by snow. I've been up and down all morning,
furling and unfurling the jib, trying to catch a bit of rainwater
(snow-water?). This valiant effort on my behalf over the last 6 hours
has yielded me a grand total of one mug of tea's worth of liquid -
melted snow greatly diminishes in volume. On the other hand, we had a
fast night of bean reaching in 20-30kts of wind, which let us pull of
the best day's run since Valparaiso. Of course, the 6 foot beam seas we
were reaching in were full of all sorts of joy, not the least of which
was throwing me across the cabin while I was cooking dinner, leaving me
with a nice bruise on my arm, and, inexplicably, bits and pieces of
corned beef and potato all over the wall near my imapct zone.
Inexplicable because both the pan and the fork I was stirring with
remained on the stove, and we certainly didn't roll far enough for
anything other than me to get launched that far. Odd...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Noon Position: 49 03' S, 39 58' W, SOG 3.5, COG 035, Day's Run 128nm,
Weeks' Run 917nm. I've been thinking about the day that I rounded Cape
Horn. It was such a focal point of the trip up that point, all my
energy aimed towards it. Then suddenly there it was, rearing up dead
ahead out of the dawn. It seemed like such an appropriate way to round
the Horn - a gale the day before, clearing to beautiful skies as I
passed Tierra del Fuego. And then, all day long, the procession of
island and mountains to port, rising up out of the sea in turn like
dragon's teeth capped in snow. It was a vibrant day, full of life - the
seas alive with birds, albatrosses and cormorants and petrels,
everywhere circling and diving. Even alive with people - a fishing boat
the night before, a cruise ship and fishing boat headed to Ushuaia as we
left the clouds and land behind. Even the land seemed to quiver with
energy, spawning immense sheets of rain that drifted to sea in dismal
rows, obliterating the sun beneath a wall of darkness. And then, at
last, a final sunset to bid it all farewell, watching the sun sink over
Tierra del Fuego, just as it had risen over the Horn, and it was gone.
The next morning nothing remained to een hint at what had passed, no
birds, no land, just the unbroken horizon, stretching ahead 3500 miles
to Africa. South America may as well have been a dream, and was as
unobtainable, carried as Odyssey was on the rushing wind. Now there's
nothing, 9 days out and it might as well be a hundred, just an endless
blur of sun and squalls and wind and waves, receding down our wake into

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Noon Position: 51 11' S, 44 44' W, SOG 6.5, COG 070, Day's Run 128nm.
It's a cold one today - the olive oil regained it's robust consistency
overnight, and even now, 1400 local, my toes and fingers are stiff with
cold despite the warm sun. Odyssey is rolling her way cheerfully
downwind wing-on-wing before WSW breeze, accompanied by a looming line
of darkness about two miles to the north, which seems to be content to
drift slowly parallel to us as it obliterates the horizon. In all other
directions, of course, there's not a cloud in the sky, and the solar
panels are soaking in the sun's rays, oblivious to the torrential
downpour just a few miles away. Sailing wing-on is not the fastest
point of sail, nor is it the most comfortable - the lack of stability
that reaching provides has Odyssey rolling consistently through about 20
degrees either side of vertical, but once the breeze gets up enough to
hit hull speed, it's certainly better than broad reaching 30 or 40
degrees off my desired course. The rolling makes moving about on deck
interesting - certainly not as bad as during a gale, when with just a
scrap of headsail up Odyssey seems to be rolling both rails underwater
at the same time as I crawl forward to secure some banging halyard, but
enough to make me appreciate being clipped in when working to leeward.
When on deck in anything but a flat calm I wear a webbing chest harness
with a pair of tethers, one 3 feet long and the other 6. Normally this
would be incorporated into an inflatable PFD of some sort, but with no
one else on board, if I get separated from the boat the extra flotation
wouldn't matter, so to save bulk and reduce snagging on various objects,
it's just a harness. On it I have a fixed blade sheath knife and a
winch handle on a carabiner, which lets carry it with both hands free.
In the cockpit are 3 padeyes to clip into, 2 at the forward end within
reach of the companionway, so I can clip in before going on deck, and
one by the wheel for working aft. For working forward, I've run a pair
of jacklines made of 3/16ths dyneema inside 1" nylon webbing. The
jacklines start at the bow cleats, cross just aft of the mast, then
terminate at the padeyes for the running-backstays near the forward end
of the cockpit. having the jacklines switch sides aft of the mast is a
bit of a pain, since it means I need to reclip to work on the fore-deck,
but the benefits are that if I'm on the 3 foot tether, I can't end up
over the side because the jacklines are near the centerline. The aft
end of the jacklines are far enough forward so that even on the 6 foot
tether, if I were to fall overboard I wouldn't drag behind the boat and
could still get myself back on board. The other important safety
feature that I've added is to connect the two lower shrouds on each side
with a piece of wood at the height of my lower back - this gives me
something to lean against while working at the mast, particularly if I
have to go to leeward, and goes a long way towards keeping me on my
feet. A last, unforeseen benefit that I gained by removing the canvas
dodger and building the small hard "hutch" over the companionway is that
it makes going forward a lot safer and easier - instead of having to
swing outboard of the running backstays with precious little room
between me and the rail, or jam myself through the narrow gap between
the runners and dodger, I can now just move forward over the cabin top,
with handrails to hang onto. I didn't really focus on it at the time
of construction, but this makes getting around the deck a lot easier -
I'm really glad to have ditched the dodger.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Noon Position: 52 32' S, 50 52' W, SOG 4.8, COG 080, Day's Run 118nm.
The South Atlantic has chosen to smile upon me - yet another glorious
sunny day. If it wasn't for the cold, the view from Odyssey's
companionway this morning could have been mistaken for a nice day in the
trade winds - crisp blue sky, puffy white clouds, rich ocean flecked
with foam. Of course, it is cold, so theres not much risk of making
that mistake. Yesterday afternoon I thawed out my Olive Oil and soap in
the sun, and by extremely accurate and scientific observations, I have
discovered that last night, while cold, was not as cold as it was off of
Cape Horn. The oil only partially congealed overnight, but was still
pourable, while the dish soap has fully re-acquired its most frozen
consistency. Interestingly enough, I believe the water temperature is
warmer than the air temperature, at least at night, since the soap that
I store in the bilge, which due to proximity mimics the temperature of
the surrounding sea, has yet to congeal into the foamy white goo that
the soap in the galley has done. Complaining about temperature out of
the way, it truly has been a glorious few days since cape horn - only
one day was really miserable, with drizzle and clouds, and for the most
part it's been beautiful and sunny. It makes me wish I had an Open 60
and could stay with the nice weather a bit longer, but I'm content to
plod along at 5 kts and enjoy the sun while I can.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Noon Position:  53 36' S,  53 27' W, SOG 5, COG 090, Day's Run 120nm.  A cousin of mine from Chicago found a website,, which lists present and past solo circumnavigation attempts.  The webmaster  offered to include me on the list, but kindly requested "a short paragraph explaining his mission or motivation for the journey."  Seeing as how I've been enjoying a lovely string of weather, with not much to do but sail fast, dry out wet charts, sails, and potatoes, and smear  grease liberally on anything that's even thinking about chafing, I thought I might oblige, since I realize that I never really posted anything along those lines in the first place.  The lack of such a statement is due to a combination of the fact that it seemed largely self evident to me why anyone would want to sail around the world, and that I didn't really have the time or motivation for any such vaguely public introspection before I left.  There are a number of reasons behind this journey, some of them which have faded into relative obscurity at sea.  Why Alone?  One of my goals was (and is) to really live life, to fully experience the highs and lows, to actually accomplish something difficult.  My life on shore, or even the relatively "civilized" life afloat that I led prior to this trip, is cushy and insulated.  I was rotting slowly from the inside, and didn't recognize the rot.  There were some hard moments, difficult times,  but in many regards they were more the exception that proves the rule, and in some cases the bad moments are enabled by the slackness that that life allowed.  I can't afford to screw up and do something stupid out here - Even if I do everything right, the sea can still kill me.  There's certainly grandeur and glory here, but it's tinged with and heightened by the ever present threat of the sea.  I need to be functioning at 100% just to break even and keep things together.  So much of what I found myself valuing ashore, whether wealth, success, power, is wiped away by a single day alone at sea.  Whether I have a car, or money in the bank, or the respect and adulation of friends and peers doesn't do a damn bit of good if the furling line chafes through, or a breaking wave puts the spreaders in the water.  There's a purity out here, which makes the living all the sweeter - the highs are higher, the depths are deeper, and every day I learn a little bit more.  I went to sea to save my soul, and this circumnavigation provides a powerful setting to do so.  I'm living richly, fully experiencing the grandeur and the terror of the sea. On a slightly less grandiose scale, I've always wanted to sail around the world, and also to round Cape Horn, ever since I heard my first sea story as a wee young lad, so combining both into a Southern Ocean circumnavigation seemed like a good way of killing two birds with one stone.  How's that for a daily dose of melodrama? ; )

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Noon Position: 55 42' S, 62 35' W, SOG 6, COG 070, Day's Run 130nm. I
had a delightful early morning wakeup by the always popular 6 AM
hailstorm, Cape Horn reaching out to remind me that I'm not beyond its
arms yet. Not that I'd be likely to forget with the cold - Through some
judicious research into the state changes of olive oil, I've discovered
that the temperature down below has reached at least 40 F. I've also
learned that when cold, Nutella gains a delicious, fudge-y consistency,
and Dawn soap turns into a weird foamy paste when both chilled and
agitated for several weeks on end. I've had a pair of brilliant sunny
days, perfect for drying things out and recharging my batteries, and
with the sun out it becomes downright pleasant between the hours of
about 2PM and 8PM. After that, of course, the temperature plummets and
keeps my olive oil a inaccessible cube at the bottom of the bottle, and
my toes turn back into something resembling icicles. I just finished
reading Richard Byrd's "Alone", about the antarctic winter he spent
alone at a weather station at 80S, and I must admit that as much as I
like complaining about how cold I am, all I need to do is think about
how excited Byrd was on the rare occasions when the inside temperature
was high enough to keep the ice from creeping up the walls of his heated
shack. So I can't complain too much about a little bit of early morning

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2/12/2012 addendum [Delayed Attachment: IMG_0159.jpg]

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Noon Position: 55 45' S, 66 09' W, SOG 8, COG 050, Day's Run 145nm.
Those of you who are particularly cunning, or at least possessed of mad
Google Earth skillz, may notice something interesting about today's
position information. I awoke this morning to a wave breaking over the
boat, and popped my head on deck to discover the wind had shifted to the
SW and Odyssey was pointed straight at Cape Horn, about 5 miles off.
Two minutes later my alarm clock went off. I listened to Beethoven's
9th symphony as the dawn slowly broke over the lonely peak of the horn,
and raised a silent toast. I stayed in the hutch, clutching my drink,
ignoring the bitter cold that bit at my ears and fingers until the sun
finally lit Cabo de Hornos before going back below to warm up over the
stove. That moment was what the trip up to now has been all about -
focused on reaching the Horn, rounding the Horn, seeing the Horn,
feeling the Horn. Now I sail Northeast and east for thousands of miles
and months, with no sight of land, no immediate goal, just me and the sea.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Noon Position: 56 09' S, 70 24' W, SOG 5, COG 075, Day's Run 138nm.
I'm coming out the backside of this depression now - it blew fairly hard
last night, probably topping out around 45 (at least that's what the
forecast called for), but wasn't as strong as the gale that knocked me
down. I know that I could get more mileage out of this weather,
especially now that it's improving as the depression passes, but it's
very hard to push the boat when it's so cold. I'm currently wearing,
from bottom to top, 2 pairs of wool socks, 2 pairs wool long underwear
pants, 1 pair fleece pants, 2 pairs wool long underwear tops, 1 fleece
vest, 2 fleece sweaters, and my foul weather pants on top, and I'm
comfortable to a bit warm during the day. When I was planning this
trip, I didn't really appreciate the temperature - thank goodness my mom
decided to mother me on the point of bringing enough warm clothes. If I
had heat on board I'd be fine with a lot less, just for going on deck
when you're active enough to stay warm, but with no chance to ever warm
up, every bit of clothing helps. At night the temperature drops
painfully - It's all I can do to sleep curled up in my blanket cocoon,
so it's really hard to convince myself it's worth carrying more sail,
when if a squall rolls through I'll have to go up in the freezing cold
and take it in... So I sail a little slowly. It seems every time I try
to put up more sail the wind builds in response - yesterday and today I
went to full jib after the wind dropped, only to have the wind suddenly
pick back up to 30-35 knots again, leaving me surfing a zig-zag course
down the front of waves as the windvane struggled to keep the boat in
control. So I sail a little slowly. I hadn't fully appreciated how
hard it blows down here - Between LA and Valparaiso, the least sail I
ever carried was a triple reefed main (bigger than what I have now) and
my big staysail, and even then was underpowered. Here, I haven't had
the main up for 2 days, and consider it light air when I can carry the
triple reefed main with the storm jib.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Noon Position: 55 17' S, 74 09' W, SOG 4.5, COG 120, Day's Run 128nm.
I've spent hours today watching the sea, hanging on by my fingertips at
the chart table as Odyssey rolls her way down 10 foot breaking waves. I
watched the progression of weather pass over, spots of sunlight amidst
thick layers of clouds, with a scattering of ominous dark squalls just
to mix things up. I watched as the seas built from gentle, playful
tumblings, gurgling their way around the globe, into vertiginous, slab
sided rollers, toppling over into brilliant blue froth as they spill
forward. I've listened as the noise of the boat grew, the normal creaks
and groans getting louder and more frequent, waves began hissing
alongside, the wind grew from an inaudible whisper to a hooting groan.
I've felt my toes grow steadily icier, despite all that two layers of
gore-tex and wool could do, each time I ventured on deck. Also, I
almost lost my tea because the damn stove fell off again while I was
boiling water.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Noon Position: 52 27' S, 77 54' W, COG 180, SOG 5.5, Day's Run 90nm.
Well, my first southern Ocean gale was brief and nasty. I'm not even
really sure how to describe it, other than a vaguely technical blow by
blow. It was absolutely terrifying, like riding a horrifying roller
coaster without seatbelts, not knowing when the car's going to come off
the track. I spent my time either down below, anxiously worrying and
hoping nothing would break or go wrong, or frantically working to get
something done before diving back into the (relative) shelter of the
cabin. And in less than 12 hours, it was over - I'm not even sure if it
qualifies as a gale, being so short. Today I'm sailing in 15 knots out
of the NW under Sunny skies - if it wasn't for the cold and the big
lumpy swell, it could almost be in the trades. I even passed a pair of
sea lions sunning themselves this morning - I'm not sure what they're
doing this far offshore, but they looked far more comfortable in the icy
water than I would be. I've got everything that I can fit up on deck
trying to dry things out a bit before it gets unpleasant again, which it
looks like will happen tonight. On thursday evening I did my nightly
email connection at 2000, as usual, and had just shortened down to storm
jib in what was a solid 35 knots or so, but was running smoothly and
comfortably. Almost as soon as I hit the send button it started getting
nasty - the wind quickly built to probably 40, with stronger gusts, and
the seas suddenly went from smooth and happy to big and ugly very very
quickly. There was a strong NW wave train from the wind on top of the
omnipresent W swell, both of which were big. When the wind picked up it
was like flicking a switch - suddenly the tops of the waves were
tumbling over themselves with a rumbling, hissing sound, reaching out to
Odyssey with white fingers of foam. I quickly struck the storm jib and
switched to a scrap of roller furled real jib - one thing I regret
already is not having a real small - 20 or 25 sq ft - storm jib - my
smallest is 65, which is too big once the breeze gets above 40 or so. I
got the boat settled down again, careening down the faces of the NW
waves, still running to the south, with the occasional straggler
slapping in at an angle and throwing us off course, while I waited,
breathless, hoping that the windvane would get the bow back downwind
before another wave caught us beam on for a real hit. Everything seemed
to be going well, and I had just settled in at the chart table,
nervously watching the gps numbers as we rumbled down wave faces at 12
or 14 knots, when there was a tremendous, dull thud, everything went
dark, and the boat swiftly leaned over as the giant, gentle hand of a
wave caught us on the starboard beam. Before I realized what had
happened we were back upright again, coming back with a jerk that
surprised me after the smooth hit, and everything was a shambles. A
gallon of sea water poured down my back, the frying pan that had been in
the sink bounced off my head on it's way for the back of the chart
table, jars of pepperoncinis from the fridge were everywhere, one of the
floorboard for the bilge was in my bunk. One of the sneaky west swells
had gotten lucky and broken right underneath us, knocking Odyssey flat.
On deck, everything was a shambles - port solar panel missing, lines
and wire trailing overboard, stern pulpit a mangled mess, cockpit knee
deep in water. I altered course more to the east to take the W swell
more on the stern and went back below, where I spent the rest of the
night in my bunk in full foulies, listening with apprehension to every
rumble, hiss, moan, and roar.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Noon Position: 51' S, 78 15' W, SOG 4 kts, COG 150, Day's Run 120nm.
Yesterday and last night the other shoe dropped... First full gale,
first horizontal knockdown, first sail damage. Of course, today I'm
drifting around in 10' seas with no wind and miserable drizzle.
everything is sopping wet, with a combination of condensation and leaks,
and I've got about 4 hours of sewing still to do, so I'm going to keep
this one short, since I want to get some sleep before it starts blowing
again tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Noon Position: 47 32' S 78 35' W, SOG 2.5, COG 125, (hove to) Day's
Run 120nm. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel like the
Southern Ocean is teasing me, warning me, just playing with me. A
stupendous run yesterday (surfing at 7-8 knots with 20-25kts wind from
the NW) was rudely interrupted this morning by the wind shifting
straight West and building to 30-35. The west swell, which had been
present all night, suddenly went from smooth and easygoing to jagged and
lumpy, and I was awakened at 5am by rush of water and an inexorable
sense of being pressed into my bunk, as one of the waves caught Odyssey
just right and spun her out, rolling us further over than I've ever
been. Not a knockdown, by any means, but probably a roll to 50 degrees
or so. I stumbled out of bed and into my foulies and got us headed
downwind to calm things down, then went below for a cup of cocoa to
think things over. I discovered that my feet had been saved from some
serious abuse at the hands of a drill from the starboard seatback
lockers only by the leecloth on the starboard bunk, which fortunately
had held everything back. Normally I keep the storm jib hanked onto the
inner forestay on deck, but I'd had it off yesterday to add some chafing
gear, so I spent the better part of the morning getting it back on
again, getting the mainsail fully lashed down and the halyards to stop
slamming the rig, and sorting out the furling gear (again) When I put
the small jib back up, I apparently didn't quite get the measure on the
furling line right, so I couldn't get the last foot or so to roll up, so
I ventured to the bow again to get things sorted out. kneeling on the
slippery deck, sliding back and forth as the boat rolled down waves
trying to get the sail fully stowed when Odyssey took off on a
tremendous swell, roaring down the face of a wave so fast that I swore
we were going to keep on going straight through the trough and into the
next wave. Clearly, that was not to be countenanced, so I ended up
heaving to for most of the afternoon while things settled down, and now
this evening I'm back underway, chugging to the south at 4.5kts under
storm jib and triple reefed main.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Noon Position: 43 46' S, 78 55' W, COG 195, SOG 5.7, Day's Run 120nm.
My old friend the the stove is up to his old tricks again - immediately
out of Valparaiso the squeaking began, but I'd learned it's tricks, and
after suffering for an hour in the middle of then night, hoping it would
fix itself, I finally forced myself out of bed and quickly quieted the
offender with some grease. Thus silenced, I returned to sleep, secure
in the knowledge that I had once again struck a blow for justice and
sanity. Little did I realize that my enemy was up to new tricks, and
had recruited conspirators as well. Four days ago it struck it's first
blow - the squeaking started again as we were crashing upwind, and I lay
in bed, hating the swedish and Bulgarian production team that produced
the devilish creature. But suddenly my muttered imprecations were
answered! We went off a particularly loud wave, and the squeaking
stopped! Hah, (I thought), it must have shocked it back into
quiescence. The next morning I awoke, looking forward to a delicious
breakfast of scrambled eggs, and discovered what had really been going
on last night. The squeaking had stopped, sure, but only because the
entire forward gimbal had unscrewed itself and the front of the stove
had fallen off the bulkhead to which it was mounted, managing to jam
itself beneath it's mounting bracket and the food storage bin below.
Much swearing and bending of flimsy sheet metal later, the stove was
back on its mounts, and all was well. Clearly this was an escalation,
but the extent of the increase in hostilities was only evident
yesterday, when I got a lunchtime surprise from the stove's
co-conspirator - We took a big roll, and an entire bottle of canola oil
shot out of the cupboard, bounced once on the counter, then exploded all
over the companionway steps, coating everything (including the genoa in
its sailbag) with a nice heavy film. This was clearly a declaration of
war, and any doubts that I had were immediately put to rest when the
stove once again unscrewed it's forward end that night and fell off,
this time managing to punch a quarter sized hole in the top of my food
bin. I'm not sure what I've done to arouse such enmity, but clearly I
need to do something to pacify the stove before it recruits any more
galley components to it's nefarious war on my sanity.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Noon Position: 41 32' S, 77 37' W, SOG 3, COG 345, Day's Run 110nm.
I've been building 40 S up in my mind as some sort of magic wall, a line
in the sand, that once crossed suddenly the weather becomes crazy.
Yesterday as I was approaching 40S I felt a kind of apprehension, as if
the very moment I hit the line the wind would suddenly start blowing 50,
the seas would suddenly become mountainous, snow and hail would start
pelting my ice covered deck. Luckily, I was wrong. For better or for
worse, right now the High pressure system is parked around 45 S, which
does a number of things. The depressions rolling through are all very
far south, so I get more distance and better weather, but because in the
southern hemisphere wind goes counter-clockwise around a high, I get
prevailing Southerlies as I sit to the East and North of it. Another
frontal system associated with a depression rolled through last night
and today - I went to bed yesterday under full main and jib, chugging
along at 5 knots, and by 1:30AM was up putting in a double reef. The
wind kept building, happily out of the NW, so pushing me in the right
direction, and by 6:30 this morning I was charging along on a beam reach
under triple reefed main and partial jib doing a fairly solid 7 knots.
The seas were a bit confused, with a remnant W swell underneath a
building NNW swell, and the occasional big W swell would catch me off
guard, rolling the bottom lifeline underwater and luffing me up hard,
making the windvane struggle for a minute or two to get me back on
course. Finally I decided to just dump the main to balance the sail
plan a bit more, which made a huge difference - no main and more jib
helped keep the bow down and the speed up - I wish I could have that
breeze for another few days. Unfortunately, right around noon some
heavy rain rolled through, and in the midst of it a 130 degree wind
shift in the course of about 3 minutes - one minute I was charging along
at 200T doing 7 knots, the next I was sailing 070. For the rest of the
day I've been loafing generally E for a smoother ride in the now S swell
and to try to get my self back offshore again. There wasn't a huge
amount of wind with this system - just before the wind went hard SW it
was pushing 40 in the gusts, but the majority of the wind was in the
25-35 kt range. In other news, I finally seem to have managed to start
picking up Valparaiso weatherfaxes, CBV, which is very nice, since it
saves me on sat phone time to download weather files. The Chilean
weatherfax broadcasts aren't very impressive - a very weak signal, and
only broadcast during the day, when reception is bad, but theres a set
of surface analyses and wind forecasts that I can now pick up right
before sunset, which is very nice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Noon Position: 38 41' S, 077 52' W, SOG 5.3, COG 140, day's run 86nm.
Today, I learned from the newspaper wrapping a tomato that on Halloween,
Anthony Weiner played a hockey game with his team and that his uniform
is #1. An avocado informed me that the number of geriatricians is
shrinking in relation to the number of geriatrics, and I learned from a
lime that a deadly fungus, Ceratocystis platani, is killing European
trees. Also, I have discovered that my fuzzy slippers from target are
most excellent.