Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Noon Position: 47 25' S, 7 22' W, SOG 6, COG 050, Day's Run 125nm. The
most frightened I've been so far this trip was the night after the
knockdown in the Pacific, as I lay shivering in full foul weather gear
in my bunk, unable to sleep, just waiting for another wave to come
sweeping over Odyssey in the moaning darkness. On a more intellectual
level, however, last night ranks a close second. Last night I hit an
iceberg. As often happens, I woke up around midnight, and lay in bed
listening, feeling - something was a bit different with the motion of
the boat. The wind had been slowly veering all night, and I had been
having to adjust course to keep us headed NE as it did, so I wasn't
particularly surprised. After a glance at the compass and GPS I darted
my head out the hatch, barefoot and clad just in long underwear to set
the windvane for a deeper angle, hoping my sleeping bag would still have
some warmth by the time I climbed back in. I waited a few seconds to
make sure the new course was acceptable, then did a quick sweep of the
horizon before heading back down below. The night was overcast and
misty, a weird, faint glow lighting the sky from the moon, which was
otherwise undetectable in the murk. It was fairly calm - we were under
full sail, coasting downwind at 5-6 kts on a flat sea. I pulled the
hatch shut, then realized there was something weird with the scene, and
went back out again - there, just forward of the beam, was a weird glow
on the horizon, as if the moon had just risen and was trying to break
through. The moon, however, had risen several hours ago, and the moon
certainly does not have any sharp angles or hard edges. Maybe an
iceberg? It didn't look too big, or too far off - maybe the size of a
car and only 100 yards away, but the lighting was weird, so I grabbed a
big flashlight to see if I was right. No luck - too far away for the
flashlight, but as I was playing the light around, trying to catch it in
the beam, I noticed a whitecap on the water that didn't go away - a
chunk of ice the size of a bucket floated by about 30 feet away. Now,
looking forward, I could see more chunks, some tiny, the biggest almost
the size of an oven, littering the water ahead and to leeward of the
glow on the horizon. For the next 5 minutes or so I played an exciting
late night game of "dodge-the-iceberg," weaving around chunks that I
could just pick up in the glow of the moon. I missed one small piece
and it clonked off the bow like a big ice cube. Then I was out of the
ice, and quickly I geared up and triple reefed the main, reducing speed
to 3.5-4 kts. After we slowed down I fired up the radar (which I've
been avoiding to save electricity) and the iceberg came up strong - now
a mile away off our stern, and with a big return - still very visible
too. I quickly revised my estimates of it's size - probably closer to
the size of a small container ship than to a car. It stayed visible
until it was about 3.5 miles away, and visible on radar to about 5.5
miles - then it was gone, swallowed up in the murk. I spent the rest of
the night with the radar on, sleeping in 40 minute chunks, getting up to
scan the horizon, but nothing more presented itself. This morning I
realized what a wasted opportunity for gathering water it was - I should
have hove to and picked up chunks of ice to melt in a bucket, but at the
time I was too focused on evasion and escape to think of such brilliant
thoughts. My sleeping patterns (and radar usage) are going to be
noticeably different for the next few days until I get closer to the
edge of the iceberg limits...


  1. Geez, Eric, another WHEW!
    Stay safe...

  2. Yowsers! Close encounters of the third kind.... You mentioned Sunday to us on phone you had seen a seal way out in the middle of nowhere, now we probably know why!

  3. Yowsers is right! Did you have any idea that you might encounter icebergs? I'm gonna have trouble sleeping at night (for the next few weeks) trying to let go of the visual of you up against an iceberg the size of a small container ship.