Saturday, June 30, 2012


Noon Position: 8 50' S, 116 57' W, SOG 0, COG ???, Day's Run 1,089,145
inches. I suspect that the field of plankton I sailed through a few
days ago contained a large quantity of barnacles - when I went for a
swim this morning the bottom was covered by innumerable miniature bodies
waving as the boat rolled. I spent about 2 hours scrubbing and teasing
the pilot fish. It seems my two big fish have abandoned me for a
passing whale or dolphin - the last few times I've been in only my
little friend is there. Today as we drifted at mach 0 there were two
other schools of little tiny fish hiding around the rudder and keel -
I'm not sure what they were, but unfortunately too small to do much of
anything with but chase with my finger. As I was swimming Odyssey was
drifting imperceptibly forward, driven by the roll of the swell on her
keel and mainsail, and looking down a parade of strange gelatinous
creatures passed below me - some trailing tentacles, some curled into
weirdly symmetrical curves, only to unroll and drift away when
disturbed. way down in the depths I caught the wriggle of a little fish
- It didn't look like one of my pilot fish, but they did seem to like
hiding deep under the boat when I was in the water. There are probably
people who would pay exorbitant amounts of money for my life at the
moment - drifting through warm tropical seas on a private yacht,
swimming at will, baking in the golden rays of the sun, if only I had a
bar equipped to make frozen tropical drinks. I'm very close to the line
of the ITCZ/monsoon trough - for some reason in the weather discussion
yesterday it morphed from one to the other. The hints of breeze and
swell now trickle from the north instead of wafting up from the south.
Unfortunately it's a lot harder to drift upwind in 1kt of breeze than it
is to drift downwind, so today's run is best expressed in inches

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Noon Position: 7 37' N, 117 06' W, SOG 5, COG 350, Day's Run 65nm. The
game of inches continues... I awoke this morning to a peal of thunder
after a night of slow but constant northward drifting and was soon on
deck dealing with the always fun wind shifts of another squall filled
day. First we went wing off - eased the working jib sheet, took up on
the foreguy as the pole swung foreward, sheeted the jib in on the same
side as the main as the wind came forward, then ease the topping lift
and tighten the foreguy to drop the pole out of the way. The wind goes
further forward, so I adjust the windvane, sheet in the jib, take off
the main preventer, sheet in the main, reset the main preventer, and now
we're close hauled where just a few minutes before we were running
before the wind. Then the wind keeps going, so I have to go forward,
take the lazy sheet out of the jaws of the spinnaker pole, then try to
put the pole away so it won't get in the way when we tack and realize
that I need to go back to the cockpit to ease the foreguy so I can slide
the pole back to it's chocks, then back up to the bow, slide the pole
aft, thread the butt onto the little post at the aft end, grab the bar
of the forward chock with the jaws, then back to the cockpit, take all
the slack out of the foreguy and topping lift, then flip the windvane
around to tack, but the wind is too light for it to do the job, so I
have to disengage the vane, spin the wheel to tack, ease the working
sheet, sheet the jib in on the new side, get us on course and re-engage
the windvane, then release the main preventer (which is now to windward,
acting like the sheet), reset the preventer to leeward, then haul the
main traveller up to lock the boom in place against the preventer so it
doesn't bang around if the wind drops. The heavens open, a torrential
downpour, and I fill 5 gallons of water jugs before the rain stops,
leaving us rolling around, sails slatting, so I ease the jib sheet, haul
on the furling line to roll up the jib so it doesn't destroy itself and
go below and continue cleaning the head. All of this in 15 minutes
before 7am. Half an hour later the wind is back again, now from a new
direction, so it's on deck to repeat all over again, trying to squeeze
as many yards and feet and inches to the north out of each little puff.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Noon Position: 6 33' N, 117 12' W, SOG 3.6, COG 030, Day's Run 51nm,
Week's Run 817nm. Yesterday we sailed into what I would term the
beginning of the Doldrums, although my friendly weather forecast would
call the frustrating, hot, cloudy wet day yesterday merely "A LARGE AREA
spent far too much time on deck (changing course and sails with every
squall), with not enough clothing (because of the rain), got far too
much sun (despite the clouds), and finally just rolling around becalmed
through the night. Last night we drifted into what I at first thought
was an immense oil slick, but I soon realized that the sea was carpeted
with tiny specks of something - plankton, jellyfish eggs? who knows?
We were still in them when I woke up at 6 this morning, and the coating
was heavy enough to prevent wind ripples from forming in the light
breeze - we were disconcertingly sailing at 4-5 kts over a sea that
looked like an undulating sea of glass. Any number of feathers floated
by, man-o-war jellyfish large and small, as well as two weird pink
swimming crab-like creatures, that looked vaguely like cross between a
jellyfish, crab, and pink flying fish with wings extended underwater,
which frantically and ineffectually struggled away from the boat. I
started in on my second to last unread paperback, Foucault's Pendulum,
and as the sunrise wind slowly started to dissipate I heard the sound of
breathing from on deck. There were little dolphins all around the boat,
some leaping energetically, some languidly surfacing, but all slowly
passing us. By the time the tail of the group arrived ten minutes later
fifty or sixty must have gone by. I got out my mask and jumped in to
see if any would swim with me, but just like the last time I tried
swimming with dolphins in the doldrums, as soon as I hit the water the
rear-guard scarpered, and I just caught the vaguest impression of a fast
moving shape out of the corner of my eye before they were gone. I did,
however, discover a pilot fish, maybe 8 inches long, hiding behind the
rudder. From underwater the plankton cloud was even more noticeable, a
haze extending through the top foot of the water column. Instead of
diving with dolphins I decided to battle with barnacles, which despite
the thorough scraping I gave the boat just a few weeks ago had already
come back in force. I climbed back aboard and rigged lines from bow to
stern to give me something to brace against while scrubbing and got out
my scrapers and scrubbers. While I was cleaning Odyssey's accompanying
guard of fish multiplied - first I noticed a little finger-sized pilot
fish who followed me around, curious what this strange creature was
doing, while his larger sibling still shyly tried to keep the keel or
rudder between us. Soon he was joined by two equally diminutive fish,
one small and blue, the other skinny and brown, that looked like it
might be a tiny remora or some sort of sucker-fish. By the time I got
out the breeze was slowly coming back, and another bigger pilot fish had
arrived, and seemed to be involved in some sort of territorial dispute
with my original escort. Back on deck, I saw lithe black bodies leaping
on the horizon - the dolphins hadn't gone far. We're now sloowly
drifting downwind, and I'm sitting in the shade of the spinnaker on the
bow typing, as the only vaguely comfortable spot on the boat. A few
minutes ago a small pod of whales passed me on the eastern horizon,
heading south, blowing and spouting spray.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Noon Position: 4 12 N, 118 51' W, SOG 5.5, COG 020, Day's Run 130nm.
For the last two nights dolphins have visited me at sunset, terrifying
passing flying fish into frenetic flight. As darkness falls they take
up station on the bow, playing and surfing and surging, trailing glowing
and sparkling wakes, occasionally setting off great green flashes that
outline a nose or fin. I suspect that these sparkling creatures which
visit in the Twilight may be vampire dolphins, but that certainly does
not detract from the warmth of their welcome back into the northern
hemisphere. I'm onto my last large chart of the trip, covering the
whole west coast, much abused from the trip out. Fortunately none of
the tears and stains impinge on the route from here to Los Angeles.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Noon Position 00 04' S, 120 14' W, SOG 6, COG 025, Day's Run 118nm.
Yesterday Afternoon, Fortunately, the wind was light enough to have full
sail up. Unfortunately, the wind increased. Fortunately, it's easy to
reef. Unfortunately, I had to walk to the mast. Fortunately, I found a
squid! Unfortunately, it was glued to the deck. Fortunately, it peeled
off easily. Unfortunately, it left a mark. Fortunately, it should wash
off. Unfortunately, I was hungry. Fortunately, I had a squid!
Unfortunately, the squid smelled like poop. So I threw it overboard and
made instant mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner.


Noon Position: 01 54' S, 120 58' W, SOG 5.5, COG 010, Day's Run 127nm.
The water (and air) temperature has dropped a little bit as we've sailed
into some westbound current, carrying a little bit of the southern ocean
out across the Pacific. I've been reading over my journal from the way
out, remembering how the stove plagued me with its squeaks and squawks
and the villainous assaults of the pen-bandits. Funny. Yesterday
morning the stove fell off (the third time, I think?), and in the past
four days I have lost two pencils and at least three pens. Clearly it
wouldn't be proper to cross the equator without the stove having caused
some last bit of deviltry or with all my writing implements intact.
Drawing inspiration from the past, in my search for pens I checked the
fridge, but all I can find in there is a small colony of bugs. 20,000
miles out to sea, with only a few of the indomitable sweet potatoes
left, and I am plagued with these stupid little bugs. Apparently
they're neat freaks, since they didn't start to appear until I started
to give the boat a good-cleaning back in the variables. If only I could
train them to nibble mold out of cracks and crevices, and we could get
along just fine. But instead, I seem to find at least one new spot a
day to hose down with Raid.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Noon Position: 6 14' S, 121 34' W, SOG 5, COG 015, Day's Run 122nm,
Week's Run 777 miles. The weather is getting increasingly warm, and I
have made the astonishingly belated discovery that I am both a far more
pleasant person, and am far more pleasant, if I periodically dump a
bucket of water over my head between the hours of 10 and 2 before
retiring to the airless pit in which I hide from the sun's rays. As I
was skimming my Great Big Book of the Oceans (with an introduction by
Fabien Cousteau!) yesterday I came upon the information that the
Atlantic flying fish is capable of remaining airborne for up to 100m,
and I began to wonder how this suspiciously round number was
ascertained. I enjoyed the image of teams of highly educated
ichthyologists laying out long strings of floating line, demarcated in
1m intervals, from their research vessel before dashing about the ocean
in small inflatables, trying to first herd a school of flying fish the
start of the course, then scare them into the air, transforming the
school for a few brief instants into a flock. I'm sure in reality some
grad student at Wood's Hole grunted out the first plausible number that
came to mind when the Great Big Book of the Ocean people came calling
early on a Monday morning, eager to return to a restorative pot of
coffee. But one can dream.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Noon Position: 10 20' S, 122 W, SOG 5.5, COG 010, Day's Run 110nm.
It's hard to do much of anything in the mid-day tropical heat,
particularly in the sweaty cave of the cabin, closed up against the
waves, where I am confined by the sun, but I managed to work up the
energy to soundly curse the weather, the ocean, and the trade winds upon
discovering that we had only managed a pathetic 110nm today - the wind
has been sitting at a pretty steady 25-30 kts from the EXN, which led to
a rough night even with the pathetic speeds we managed. It's pretty sad
that since getting to the trades, I've only managed to average over 5
kts twice.
For those of you who are interested, I've discovered that I can still
read, after a fashion on one of my kindles, since only a quarter of the
screen is missing. I start the page upside down, read the top half,
then flip the screen and the kindle over and read the bottom half before
flipping back for the next page. It's a pretty miserable way of
reading, breaking up the flow of the book pretty badly, especially since
I have to read half of the middle line on one flip and the other half on
the second flip, and after reading about 30 pages I gave up on it for
now - I was starting on Reamde, which I wanted to enjoy, and the
flipping just kind of killed it for me. If I get desperate I may go
back and try again, but for now I still have 2 real books that I haven't
read, and I've re-read a number that I read the last time I was in the

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Noon Position: 12 10' S, 122 13' W, SOG 5.7, COG 010, Day's Run 105nm.
I have apparently managed to happen upon the 7.5% chance (according to
my pilot charts) in which the wind in this region is North of East.
Still slugging it out upwind, although today it's finally veered to EXN
and built to 20 kts - great wind for going the other direction. This is
what I get for hoping for 1000 mile weeks in the trades, I guess. Now
that I'm out of the south, I'm pretending to be a purist - I stopped
downloading weather files somewhere in the vicinity of 30S, and for the
last few days I've been taking advantage of the relatively smooth
conditions to turn off the GPS and work on my celestial navigation.
This, of course, will cease shortly after crossing the equator as I play
the always fun game of "don't get hit by a Hurricane." I've got a pot
of a fish & lentil stew going on the stove right now - the chunks of
dried wahoo that I threw in have withstood an hour of pressure cooking
and about 36 hours of soaking with no noticeable reduction in
toughness. The dried fish is pretty bland, but is a decent way to save
the extra.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Noon Position: 14 45' S, 123 20' W, SOG 5, COG 000, Day's Run 100nm.
Wednesday I finally picked up the trades, which have been sending us
North ever since. I had been imagining weather like I had on my way
south, 15-25 kts out of the E to ESE, which going North again would
drive us along at quite a good clip. Instead the trades have been
light, rarely over 12kts, and last night we even spent 6 hours becalmed,
drifting around. I was looking forward to a nice swim once the sun was
up, but with the sun came wind, so we're sailing instead - unfortunately
NE wind, so we're close hauled, but at least we're moving in the right
direction at something approximating an acceptable pace.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Noon Position: 18 27' S, 124 05' W, SOG 6.5, COG 015, Day's Run 105nm,
Week's Run 592. Yesterday I used 4.5 rolls of toilet paper. That's an
entire convenient, septic-safe 4-pack plus a bit extra. It was not, as
you may surmise, as a result of eating some poorly cured dried wahoo, or
even eating moldy cheese or a bad bit of sausage. It was, in fact, a
sacrifice in yet another massive push against the mold. As of yesterday
afternoon, everything from the companionway forward (including the
v-berth, fetid mass of wet sails that it is) has been de-molded and
dried. I only have 2 rolls of paper towel left, but approximately
2,000,000,32 rolls of toilet paper, so a substitution was made. I have
high hopes that I may get until next week before it starts appearing again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Noon Position: 20 10' S, 134 34' W, COG 075, SOG 2, Day's Run 42nm.
I've sailed through the screaming fifties, the roaring forties,
struggled through the threatening thirties and the tiresome twenties,
almost through at last to the tropical teens and the nudist noughts (so
called because, of course, you wish you were a nudist in the heat). If
I carried both sufficient fuel and the will to use it my passage through
the variables would have been no doubt faster, but not, I think,
better. Certainly it would have been nice to be through quicker, to be
buffeted by fewer cold fronts, and I certainly could have motored
through the night last night instead of rolling back and forth in my
bunk as we bobbed about, totally becalmed, but it would be a different
trip. I will admit, with some chagrin (one of my log entries reads
"Main Engine ON - forgive me") to motoring as much as I could on that
painful slog to Valparaiso, preoccupied as I was with thoughts of
repairs and preserving as much of the southern summer as possible. It
didn't really make much of a difference, the 15 or so hours that I
gained with the engine on were used up lying hove to off the coast,
waiting for dawn to go to shore, and those 15 hours certainly weren't
pleasant, listening and feeling the roar and vibration of the engine.
On every other boat that I've sailed running an engine and/or generator
is a fact of life - from relatively light hour or two a day of charging
of small cruising boats all the way up to the obscene dawn-to-dusk
generator on a big schooner, on top of the grumble of the engine as soon
as the wind got light. I can certainly do it, have in the past and will
in the future, but it's a different kind of life, a different mood, a
different goal, driven by the whims and schedules of the shore, the so
called "real world" where people have planes to catch and cold drinks
and air conditioning. I always loathe the moment that the engine
grumbles to life, casting it's pall of smoke and grease and noise over
the boat, and I expect most sailors do, but just accept it as a
necessity. Despite the frustration of essentially engine-less sailing,
the slow days, the irritation that flares up at silly little things
knocking about in calms, it brings to life a certain beauty, a rhythm
not dominated by the mechanical god of the shore.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Noon Position: 22 24' S, 125 52' W, SOG 6.5, COG 045, Day's Run 125nm.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Noon Position: 25 31' S, 127 55' W, SOG 4, COG 080, Day's Run 65nm.
The transition in ecosystems from the south to the tropics is becoming
clear - three days ago a big albatross wandered by, looking a bit
confused, then yesterday morning I was visited by a tropic bird, who
hovered overhead despite all my shouting and waving, as if trying to
decide whether it was worth it to befoul my sails. The birds in the
southern ocean were, in addition to being rather stately, far cleanlier
than tropical birds, who seem to take joy in leaving presents of
excrement or regurgitated fish on travelling boats. For two mornings
now I've woken up to find a fat juicy flying fish or two on deck, and my
sleeping bag now only serves as a bottom sheet, a buffer against the
damp cushions. Sunrise yesterday was spectacular and red, and perhaps I
should have heeded the rhyme, for in the last 24 hours I have gotten to
enjoy a fabulous 400 degree wind shift, backing from NE all the way
around the compass back to NE, then onwards to just W of North again. I
have also been graced with the privilege of enjoying wind speeds ranging
from glassy, drizzly calms that had the sails and boom slamming and
slatting recklessly, to wind strong enough that twice now I've had to
heave to and wait for it to decrease. At least in all of these
shenanigans I've managed to claw my way 65 miles closer to the trades,
one day closer to escaping this obnoxious muddle of wind.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Noon Position: 27 27' S, 127 30' W, SOG 5, COG 055, Day's Run 100nm,
Week's Run 620nm.
Miles Sailed since just before Tasmania: 4799nm
Average Day's Run: 114nm
Average Speed Sailed: 4.75kts
Miles Sailed since Valparaiso: 15934nm
Average Day's Run: 119nm
Average Speed: 4.9kts
Miles Sailed since Los Angeles: 22687nm
Average Day's Run: 115.75
Average Speed: 4.82kts
I was all set to complain about the slow week's run, but then looking
over old logs to come up with the numbers since LA I found a week's run
of 562 and another of 495... Of all the terrible places to sail east
in, the middle of the variables off of the coast of Chile was certainly
one of the worse picks.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Noon Position: 30 11' S, 130 00' W, SOG 5, COG 075, Day's Run 115nm.
An Unpleasant night - by 10:45 or so I was bashing upwind with a triple
reefed main and partial genoa, which is not in any way, shape, or form
an appropriate upwind sail when rolled that much. Every time we dropped
off a wave a little video clip from the america's cup a few years back
ran through my head, of Team New Zealand launching off a big wave upwind
and crashing down hard in a plume of bow spray, and instead of stopping
it's plunge like the hull, the mast kept going, crumpling (in slow-mo)
over the side. I finally got the boat throttled back enough to fall
asleep, only to be awakened from a disturbing dream of Christmas
shopping while being pursued by government thugs through an underground
warren of basements and tunnels by a new and obnoxious beeping. I
stumbled out of bed, still fogged with sleep, thinking that perhaps the
AIS alarm had somehow gotten a new sound over all these months of
inactivity, and rushed to the chart table. Nothing - no lights
blinking, no messages flashing, just an obnoxious beep. I finally
figured out that it was the continuance of the electronics holocaust
that has engulfed Odyssey these last few days - the inverter, despite
being turned off, had managed to do something unpleasant in it's innards
and wanted to let me know. I turned it on and the beeping intensified,
accompanied by blinking error codes and horrible grinding noises from
the fan. I finally had to disconnect the power to get it to shut up and
let me get back to sleep.
Whenever I've been feeling melancholy of late my eyes have turned
towards Cape Horn on my little inflatable globe, back towards the
southern ocean. In a spurt of curiosity, I downloaded the Chilean
weather forecast for Cape Horn this afternoon:


That snapped me out of it pretty quick - suddenly 25 kts on the nose doesn't seem so bad anymore...


Noon Position: 30 11' S, 130 00' W, SOG 5, COG 075, Day's Run 115nm.
An Unpleasant night - by 10:45 or so I was bashing upwind with a triple
reefed main and partial genoa, which is not in any way, shape, or form
an appropriate upwind sail when rolled that much. Every time we dropped
off a wave a little video clip from the america's cup a few years back
ran through my head, of Team New Zealand launching off a big wave upwind
and crashing down hard in a plume of bow spray, and instead of stopping
it's plunge like the hull, the mast kept going, crumpling (in slow-mo)
over the side. The electronics holocaust also continued last night, as
I was awakened in the wee hours by an obnoxious beep, and hurtled out of
bed, my still sleep-fogged mind thinking that the AIS alarm was warning
me of some nearby ship - nope. Despite being turned off, the inverter
was beeping like a dying animal, and when I tried turning it on, only
beeped louder, accompanied by blinking error codes on the little display
and horrible grinding noises from the fan. I put the spare in this
morning, so at least I still have power - the inverter survived all
sorts of abuse in the southern ocean, only to finally die a horrible
beeping death in relatively mild conditions.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Noon Position: 30 40' S, 133 07' W, SOG 4.5, COG 320 (I'm going to tack
soon), Day's Run 75nm. Well, we're fully ensconced in the variables,
the Horse Latitudes of youre. When I switched from jib to Genoa a few
days ago I thought it would be a good way to bring the wind, since
typically as soon as I increase sail area the wind picks up so as to
make it unmanageable, but instead the breeze slowly died - We are
definitely dealing with the vindictive winds of the 40s no more. I had
forgotten how big the genoa was - I can't believe that I sailed some
3500 miles on the way out with it up, although I suppose I am a bit
biased from the last few months. It's been nice to have the big
headsail, since sailing on the starboard tack I can't set the drifter
without some nasty halyard chafe, so it's let me keep moving in this
light stuff. I haven't had any really long glassy calms since I last
posted, just light and variable wind, leaving me slapping around at 1 or
2 knots for half an hour, then rushing along fully powered up at 6 kts,
then back to 3, and so on, all with changing directions too. I'm hoping
this wind continues to back into the NW or W and I can get some
spinnaker action going, to start really cranking out the miles in this
light stuff, but we shall see.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Noon Position: 32 18' S, 135 12' W, SOG 3, COG 020, Day's Run 60nm.
RIP Kindle #2... I discovered yesterday afternoon in a horrible
confluence of technology that if you drop a satellite phone onto the
screen of a Kindle, said screen will no longer function. I can now read
only the very bottom line on each page on my second kindle, worse than
the bottom half of the page that I could read on the first broken one.
This does at least give me fewer reasons to avoid cleaning, so I spent
the morning (mostly becalmed, winds light and variable) scrubbing,
drying, and de-molding. Odyssey is starting to approximate a habitable
space again.