Friday, July 30, 2010

Stats and Rodrigues

Well, finally we have arrived. And since then, silence on my part. This is because Rodrigues, which is a charming island, is also a deep black hole as far as Internet is concerned and I have not been able to post anything, unless I would do it like at sea through the sat phone.
We got in view of the island, as forecast early afternoon on Tuesday July 27. The closer we got to the island, the stronger the wind and the higher the swell. Eventually, by the time we got at the entrance of the channel, the wind was blowing at 35 and the swell, although shorter was still very aggressive. I did not feel good coming alongside in these conditions, but there was no choice. Eventually, by the time we only had 2 boat length between us and the wharf, the wind finally dropped to 20 knots and we were able to put 2 lines ashore.
Since the Cocos, for a total distance on a straight line of 1984 nautical miles, we had covered 2019 n.m. through the water and 2066 over the ground, benefiting 47 n.m. from the current. Our average speed through the water was 6.7923 which is really wonderful. I am very happy with that.
In those 12 days of passage, we only saw 2 fishing boats close to the Cocos, and then 2 bulk carriers on their way to South Africa. Maybe Andy will be surprised that we saw so few ships.
I am hurrying to post this while I still have a connection, but I hope to be able tonight to put in something about Rodrigues, which is a little paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean and that most people don't even know it exists.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A matter of water

Water, indispensable to life, at least fresh water. The trillion of
gallons of sea water that surround us help us to float, yes, but that's
about it.
As for fresh water, which is not available in unlimited quantities, its
consumption has to be managed. Therefore measured, since if you can't
measure it, you can't manage it.
When I started preparing for this voyage, on the one hand I took the big
watermaker that was on the boat off the boat, because I am not yet
convinced of their usefulness on the long distance voyage. Then, I had a
simple mechanical online water meter installed at the outlet of the
water pump. This way, I know permanently, to the tenth of a gallon, how
much water we are using.. Everyday at noon, I tell the crew what is the
average consumption since the last time we filled up, how much water we
have on board and how many days this represents. Just providing that
information help everyone to adjust their usage of water in relation to
those numbers.
Water on a boat has different usages. First and foremost, to drink.
Everyone has different needs, but roughly around 2 quarts per day
average. Anyway, there can be no restriction of any kind on allowing
people to drink water as much as they feel like.
Then water is used for cooking. There, a number of things can be done to
optimize the use of fresh water. For pasta and rice and many items which
have to be cooked in water, I use half sea water and half fresh water.
The mixture would have a salt content of 17 grams per litre. The norm
being 15, you just have to put a little more fresh water than sea water.
Then some items can be cooked in sea water only, like boiled eggs or
potatoes. For items which are steamed, you can use sea water only. For
wahing the dishes, washing laundry and washing oneself (especially
showering), same principle : use sea water first and then fresh water
for the last rinse. This way, you can take a shower for less than 1 1/2
gallons. And never miss an opportunity is the water comes from the sky.
For laundry, it takes a little more water and we try and avoid washing
laundry at sea.
Then the good news is that on a boat, we use sea water to flush the
toilets, unlike in a regular house.
On Papy Jovial, the average consumption since we left Darwin almost a
month ago stands at 3.544 gallons per day for the two of us. We left
with 220 gallons between the storage tanks, one jerrican of 6 gallons
and a portable shower. This represents 62 days of consumption and shows
that we certainly would not need to make water even on the longest of
passages. However, we would have to load the boat with those 220 gallons
i.e. 1,800 pounds of water. Everytime you want to move weight, you have
to provide energy. Everyone knows that the heavier the boat, the slower
she will be or the more power she will require. Same as I hate to load
heavy and cumbersome books on board and would rather have ebooks and an
ebook reader, same for water, I would like to reduce the total weight
that the boat has to carry.
This is where the watermaker comes into play. Ideally, if there were 100
% reliable, one could leave port with only 4 or 5 gallons and then make
water as needed. This is what the ocean racers like in the Vendee Globe
challenge, for whom weight is the ultimate ennemy, do. But they have
assistance ready to come whenever they are if they were in a critical
The average cruiser knows that he can only rely on himself and therefore
is not ready to take that chance. As a result, not only he has a big
watermaker, heavy and requiring a lot of energy (electricity mostly),
but he also leaves port with full tanks !
I keep thinking of that dilemna, and I think that in the future I will
go for a compromise. Reduce the size of the water tank to a number that
would provide strict minimum for the duration of the longest passage,
and then have a water maker for the extras, like a fresh water shower. I
still have to find a water maker that would be reliable, light in weight
and producing no more than 40 or 50 gallons per day.
Hopefully, I will have found it before I start my next big trip.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nothing to report

For the last three days, nothing has changed significantly in the
weather conditions. Overcast skies with morning showers, wind from the
SE at 15 to 25, long swell from the SE or SSE at 6 to 8 knots, to
guarantee a constant rolling, just to keep our legs in shape.
While not taking undue risks to damage anything, we try and maximize
speed to make it to Port Mathurin on the island of Rodrigues before
17:30 local time, which is sunset time. According to Noon site, it is
not recommended to enter Port Mathurin at night and we will try to get
there before dark.
It is now too late to get the part for the Windvane sent to Rodrigues,
but it's only two days sailing between Port Mathurin and Mauritius, and
since the part has to transit in Mauritius anyway, we will do the repair
Meanwhile, we have started cooking with a can opener as fresh stuff has
run out. We still have plenty of spaghettis, rice and fish caught before
the indian ocean which has not yielded anything yet.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Speedy Gonzalez

With the electric auto-pilot replacing the defective windvane, the
electric consumption on the boat has almost doubled to nearly 230
amp/hour per day, and with cloudy skies, we are having to run the
electric generator 2 and 1/2 hour per day. So I am hoping to get to
Rodriguez as quickly as we can so that we can have a replacement part
for the one that failed shipped to us. And I find myself watching the
speed to try and guess when we might arrive.
Well, talking speed on a boat (or an aircraft) can be sometime confusing.
First, there is the speed through the water. This one, everybody
understand, but not everybody knows that there is a speed limit (not
strictly enforced) for what is called displacement boats, i.e. boats
that don't plane with a hull going constantly through the water. In that
case, the maximum speed is decided by the length of the waterline, and
no matter how much sail you put on, you will not exceed it. Sometimes,
when you are surfing a big wave, you think you can, and indeed Papy
Jovial which has a hull speed of 7.73 knots once recorded 11.4 knots.
But then, after you have rushed down the wave, you have to climb up and
the average drops down to that famous hull speed. Anyway, with a speed
limit of 7.73 knots, we are quite happy when we can average more than 7
knots for the day, and this is what we did today with an average speed
through the water of 7.32 knots. Our average through the water since we
left the Cocos stands at 6.55 knots, which is wonderful.
But that speed through the water maybe very different from the speed you
achieve over the ground. This is because there are currents acting like
a conveyor belt, and it could work against you or for you. If you walked
on a moving walkway in an airport at 2.5 mph and the walkway is moving
at 1.5 mph, then the person walking next to you but outside of the
walkway will have to achieve 4.0 mph to stay with you. Since we left the
Cocos, we have actually covered over the ground 62 more nautical miles
than through the water. That is very pleasing. The bad news is that it
is over, and today Neptune, the god of the sea, only gave us 1 extra mile.
So now that you know your speed over the ground, you think that this is
it and you will be able to work out your time of arrival by dividing the
distance to your destination by your speed over the ground. Niet !
Here comes the VMG (Velocity made good), which takes into account the
fact that you are not going over the ground to your destination in a
straight line. Even if the wind allows you to take a direct course, you
will not go straight. The waves, the way the autopilot works, will make
you sail a sinusoidal course longer than the direct one. Today, in the
last 25 hours, we covered 184 nautical miles over the ground but we only
got 179 miles closer to our destination. And sometimes, you cannot set a
direct course, for example if the wind is directly in your face. You
then have to zig-zag (go tacking say the sailors) to receive the wind
alternatively on your starboard or port side with an angle big enough
that you sails can make you move forward. Let's say that the best you
can do is go 60 degrees from the wind (a convenient number since the
cosinus is 0.5), then when you go 6 miles over the ground, you only gain
3 miles towards your destination. The sailors used to say, when you go
tacking, it's twice the distance and three times the work, since you
have to handle the sails everytime you tack.
I apologize to the many sailors reading this blog for the simplification
and a language looking like intended for people who don't know much
about sailing. Well, quite a few of people keeping in touch with me
through the blog are not sailors and they might learn something they did
not know.
With all that, I have estimated, based on today's figures, that we will
arrive in Rodriguez on July 27 at 19:25 local time (GMT+4)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Talking trash

Now in decent weather for a few days, it is time to think of something
else than leaks and mechanical failures. We have been a week at sea and
getting near the time when the trash can in the galley will be full.
When I started taking care of Papy Jovial, I had logged approx 135,000
nautical miles on sailboat, including 5 atlantic ocean crossings and I
had had time to realize that on long passages, the most difficult issues
to tackle are not weather or navigation skills, but managing trash and
water consumption.
Basically, the trash falls into 4 main categories, from a sailboat point
of view. First, food items, second bio degradable items such as carton,
paper, etc, third glass and metal which are not collapsible, and then
all others which are mostly plastic material.
While in port, you deal with the trash exactly the same way you will do
at home and dispose of it in the refuse bins provided by the marina, and
sometime at anchorages.
As soon as you get out of port and confined waters, you can safely throw
food items over the side. Marine life may thank you for that. In the
same time, you begin to sort out the rest of the trash into
biodegradable into one trash bag, glass and metal into a box and plastic
in the regular trash can.
Once you are out of the continental shelf, then it is time to drop over
the side biodegradable items and also glass and metal. However, make
sure you break of fill up with sea water the glass containers to make
sure they sink. For metal cans, we punch holes in them, also to make
sure they sink. At that time, you are in the ocean over thousands of
feet of water and I don't believe throwing glass and metal to the bottom
of the sea is harmful to the environment.
Plastic however have to remain on board. Whenever you drop a plastic
item in the trash bin of the galley, make sure to rinse it and clean it
with sea water so that there is nothing left on it that could ferment
and rot.
Once the trash can is full, I then vacuum pack it using a FoodSaver
machine. It comes with rolls of very strong plastic material 11 inch
wide. I cut bags approximately 2 feet long, seal one end, fill it up
with the plastic items compressed by hand, vacuum pack it and double
seal it. You can then store it safely wherever you want, even in your
clothes, as it won't stain them and won't have a bad smell. We fill up
approximately one of those bags in one week and we store them in the bilge.
I am very happy with that procedure. I looked at other alternatives such
as trash compactor, but I think that this is the most effective, the
least expensive and the safest way of doing it.
So, when we arrive in Rodriguez, all we will have will be 2 tiny little
plastic parcels, our trash for 2 weeks. We were able to drop 2 bags in
the Cocos.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The weld that has not held

Apprently, I am used to having disasters occur at midnight. This time,
as we had just changed watch, the boat start to luff and did not respond
at all to the windvane. I called Olivier back to check out while I
steered by hand, and Olivier found the water paddle of the windvane
floating behind the boat, towed by the safety line. Difficult to explain
for those who don't know the Monitor windvane. There is a vertical tube
holding the water blade and which rotates to trigger the lateral
movement that in turns handle the wheel. That tube has a hinge, half way
up so that the blade can be lifted out of the water when not in use. It
is the upper part of that hinge which is normally welded to the tube
that came off. This is stainless steel and we should be able to have it
welded back in Rodriguez, not before of course.
Sooooo, in the meantime, we have to use our brand new electric autopilot
and its faulty power supply. We put it on, and soon enough, it tripped
the breaker. So at the end of my watch during which I hand steered the
boat, Olivier put back in place the power supply picked up from the SSB
circuit, and it now works fine.
The weather conditions are a lot better now, with winds at 20 knots from
SE to ESE, and with the wind like that way abaft of our beam, we have a
lot less water coming on deck and finding its way inside the boat. Seven
more days of that nice weather and we should be able to start doing
repairs in Rodriguez. Actually, we might spend a little more time than
planned there as we are likely to be anchored in Mauritius and therefore
have less facilities to do the repairs. We need running water to check
out the leaks and we have to be alongside.
Today I again had a good radio communication with the South Africa
Maritime Network. Life is not all that bad.
We are now 1145 miles fromn Rodriguez, very close to the halfway mark.
We have lost the very nice current that one day gave us an extra 20
miles and made me doubt our loch. All we got today was a mere 6 miles.
Better than nothing anyway.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In touch

Since yesterday, I am now able to communicate with the weather net in
South Africa. We are still some 3300 miles away and the communication is
not all that good, but I was able to send my position, ETA and local
weather conditions and Graham at the other end acknowledged my message.
I suppose that it is going to get better everyday and that is excellent
news to me as I will need their help once I leave Reunion for Durban.
Today, the weather has improved, actually it started to improve
yesterday afternoon and as soon as the wind dropped below 35 knots we
increased the genoa to accelerate and try and get away from that weather
system as quickly as we can.
In the meantime, the war against the leaks continue. We wrapped the mast
in a long plastic sock, but it is very difficult to get it to adhere to
the ceiling. However, we have reduced dramatically the amount of water
coming from there.
For the forward hatch, nothing we can do while at sea. It does not look
like any water coming through the crack in the lens, nor through the
gasket, but rather seeping in between the frame and the deck. If that is
the case, then it should be fairly easy to properly rebed it, as I have
done successfully for the other three hatches.
Then we have leaks through the opening portholes. There are six of them
in the main cabin and at least three of them leak, one very badly, the
one behind the chart table, opposite the engine compartment. We had
tried to change the gasket, eliminate all salt, put vaseline on the
gasket, etc.... but there is a small lump of what appears to be a
compound like Araldite and we could not take it off. Once in Rodriguez,
we will try and block it from the outside and then replace the whole
unit in South Africa.
Actually, I think I will replace all the portholes in the main cabin
with fixed ones. I never open them anyway and I would feel more at ease
with fixed ones.
And then, there are the leaks coming through the deck at various
locations. With the liner covering the whole ceiling inside the boat, it
is almost impossible to examine where exactly the water is seeping
through. Right now, I suspect the two cleats amidship as well as the
stanchion bases on both gates, port and starboard. Trying to feel the
deck from down below, I can find any screw or bolt going through the
deck and I do not know how those cleats were installed. I will probably
wait for Capetown when I haul out in a boatyard.
The weather fortunately has improved enough so that there is now very
little sea getting on deck, only the occasional big wave, and the rest
of the trip might prove to be dryer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly

I should never have asked for more wind ! The gods of the sea heard me
and they have sent plenty of it.
When we left Cocos, it was all good and beautiful. Strong following
winds, not too much sea, and as a result we covered more than 170 miles
in the first day. We could almost see ourselves get to Rodriguez in less
than 12 days.
Then came the second day, with much less wind, lots of showers, confused
seas. It was almost all bad and the daily mileage dropped to 160, thanks
to 17 miles of favorable current. The actual wind was down to 15 knots
and when we are going downwind, Papy Jovial needs at least 20 knots to
get going at a good speed.
Last night, about midnight, it came. First of all, heavy shower, long
and steady, with the wind increasing gradually to 35 knots. And this has
been the story all day. Lots of showers, wind at 37/38 knots with gusts
at 45, sometimes 50, even once 52. As a result, we are down to a very
small jib and no main, and the mileage, although not catastrophic, was
down to 156.
Hopefully, we have gone through the peak of that system and we should be
able to resume normal course and speed by tomorrow.
This is pleasure boating at its best. We continue to have leaks at the
passage of the mast through the deck and at the forward hatch which
makes life a little unpleasant, at best. There is not much we can do in
those conditions, but we will try and get to the bottom of it once in
Cooking also becomes a little more challenging, but we are not giving
up, and we maintain our normal routine of continental breakfast, lunch
with either a salad or a sandwich, and a cooked dinner.
We have now covered almost a quarter of the way to Rodriguez and I am
sure that the remainder will be a lot more pleasant sailing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Around the bad guys

The weather situation got a little complicated and we were about to
plunge head into an area with 35 and plus knots of wind. And we are
getting a little tired of being in a washer and getting all around stuff
wet. The bad area seems to be to the south of us, right into what would
have been our path, so we eased the sheet and aim for a westerly course
with a little bit of north in it. By Monday, the situation should look a
lot better and we will be able to go for Rodriguez on a direct course.
This being said, this first day sailing after the stop in Cocos was
quite good. We covered 195 miles in the first 27 hours, which is
equivalent to 171 miles for one day. We are quite happy about that.
These were hard earned miles, but what is taken is taken. Another 1795
miles to go for Rodriguez

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On the move again

Well ! I am quite happy to have the Cocos behind me. Not a stop that I
would recommend. During the four days we were there, we almost never saw
the sun, but the wind never gave up. Never less than 20 knots and mostly
25 to 30. Add to this that for reasons probably due to local currents,
the waters of the lagoon are very choppy and the dinghy ride from the
anchorage at Direction island to home island is very wet and unpleasant.
Tuesday we went to Home island, but at the wrong time, i.e. lunch hour,
and we found a ghost town with the few shops that there are closed. We
were told that there was a restaurant open every day, but once checked,
we found out that it only opens on Wednesday. So we wandered throughout
this little settlement of around 5009 malays, Before returning to
Direction, we found the supermarket and purchased a few items.
On Wednesday, we did it again, but this time, we left earlier so that we
could catch the ferry to West island at 10:45. There we found much of
the same, plus an international airport with 2 flights per week. West
island is home to the australian expatriates, 250 of them we were told.
There are two small resorts, one by Castaway, the other one local, but
there did not seem to be many tourists. We also found a coffee shop
where at least we could have a bite before doing the shopping at the
supermarket, only slightly bigger than the one in Home island, and then
returning with the 3:00 p.m. ferry to Home island. And then back to the
boat with the dinghy.
Wednesday night, we entertained Keith on Sadiqi, a yachtman from Perth
on his way to Indonesia. His boat is the only other boat in the lagoon.
We left this morning around 8:45 and since then, it is back in the
washer, Winds of 25 to 30, continuous showers and water over the deck
almost continuous. Unfortunately, a good deal of that water is finding
its way inside the boat, partly through the passage of the mast through
the deck, partly through the forward hatch. All in all, not very
pleasant conditions, but it can only get better. So we hope !
We are going with three reefs and three turns in the genoa, but the wind
is SSE and we are almost sailing with the wind on the beam which makes
for a very wet cockpit.
For the first time tonight, I am beginning to hear voices on the south
africa maritime mobile network and this is encouraging news.,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trade Winds

Securely anchored in the lagoon of Direction Island, there is not much
we can do at first but enjoy the lack of rolling and the full night
sleep. Having arrived on a Sunday, we have had to wait until Monday to
clear with the authorities. During that time, we are not allowed to go
ashore or even to visit other boats (there are three of them anchored
here). However, even if we wanted to, the trade winds kept blowing
relentlessly at 25/35 knots, making it extremely uncomfortable to go to
Home Island, 2 miles away but upwind. With those winds, the waters of
the lagoon are very choppy and we might as well go to town in our
bathing suits.
This monday, police showed up around 9 in the morning and we were able
to clear and get all the informations that we needed to organize our
stay. The wind is still blowing strong, but the forecast call for a drop
in strength tuesday and wednesday, which suits us just fine.
Today afternoon, we went ashore on Direction island, had a long walk up
and down this very tiny island and then enjoy a swim in waters which are
crystal clear and transparent for the first time since I arrived in
Tomorrow, we will go to Home island for shopping, enquire about what is
available in West island, and possibly find a restaurant to have a meal
ashore. Home island is settled by about 500 malays who live here
permanently. They are all muslims, so no alcohol on the island which
suits me just fin.
West island is home to some 250 aussies expatriate, and it is where the
airport and the various resorts are located. We will try and do that on
If all goes well, we will set sail on thursday, bound for Port Mathurin,
capital of the island of Rodriguez. My weatherman tells me that thursday
thru saturday should be fine but to expect up to 32 knots of wind on
sunday. As long as we are sailing downwind, we can easily take up to 35
knots. This should be a fast passage. I expect 13 days or less.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Durban or not Durban !

For the last few days, I have been involved in a lively discussion on
trying to define the best strategy to sail from the island of La Reunion
to Capetown. Involved in those exchanges were the weathermen from South
Africa who run the South Africa Maritime Net, a prominent brother from
the South Africa brotherhood of the Coast, and my weather router based
in Perth, Australia.
At one extreme of the solutions offered, would be to wait for October
anyway, then sail to Durban and then coast hop from harbour to harbour
(East London, Port Elizabeth, Mosselbay, Cape Agulhas anchorage and
Capetown) taking advantage of the available weather windows as they come
At the other extreme, suggested by a Kiwi friend, sail whenever you get
there and sail around South Africa staying 100 miles from shore until
you have passed Cape Agulhas and then head for Capetown.
For those who don't know it, this area has a very complex weather
situation. It is one of the two most potentially dangerous sailing areas
in the world (with the Cape Horn area), and every year there are
sailboats dismasting, capsizing and sometimes sinking. This is the area
where one can encounter a "freak wave" more than 80 feet high, this is
also the area where one can sail across one of those "busters", coastal
lows that can generate up to 70 knots of wind.
When you get close to shore on the east side, you will have to cross the
notorious "agulhas" current that could run up to 6 knots southwest and
make you overshoot your destination.
And then, there is a 255 miles long stretch of coast between Durban and
East London, with no shelter at all whatsoever.
So, since we left Darwin, I have been busy studying the pilot charts,
the South African Sailing Directions, various books and ebooks that I
have on this subject, and seeking advice from knowledgeable people back
in Australia and of course in South Africa.
At first, I had selected to make a run directly for East London,
believing that I could ride out the storms out there and avoid the area
between Durban and East London.
Fortunately, my brother in South Africa and the operators of the weather
radio net talked me out of that and convinced me to select the route
going via Durban, aiming at first for a position north of it so as not
to overshoot it.
So, come late August early September, I will set sail for the southern
tip of Madagascar (about 4 to 5 days) and then aim for the north of
Durban, keeping my ears very close to the ground to make sure that
should there be a southwesterly on the way, I will ride it outside far
enough from shore so that it is only a strong southwesterly, and then
make a run to Durban.
I know that those five to seven days sailing into Durban are likely to
be the most taxing days mentally of the whole voyage.

Right now, we are sailing in between showers in a following wind of 20
to 28 knots and I had to drop the main sail and roll up the genoa two
turns to avoid arriving in the Cocos before sunrise.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mighty Putty (as seen on TV) to the rescue

Yesterday around 4, we had very light winds, doing barely 4 knots and
decided to run the engine to recharge the batteries and make some way in
the same time.
Soon after the engine was started, there was a strong smell of exhaust
gaz everywhere inside the boat. We checked it out and found a hole 1 and
1/2 inch in diameter in the exhaust hose, immediately after the engine.
Olivier, again him, used the mighty putty that I had purchased after
seeing the ad on TV, made a nice plaster, covered it up with an unfolded
can of beer, secured in place with two hose clamps, and after restarting
the engine, concluded that the repairs was good.
We don't need the engine anyway until we get to the Cocos and we
probably won't need it between the Cocos and Port Mathurin, but at
least, we know we can use it.
Other than that, not much to report. We had another 145 miles day
although we felt almost becalmed most of the afternoon yesterday. The
weather is nice, with the temp at 83. Our water consumption has been
creeping up everyday but is still low at 3.295 gallons per day for the
two of us.
I no longer calculate the time left to go in days but in hours. Less
than 72 hours to go for about 420 miles.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Up and down !

After a bad day comes a good day ! After we had stopped the engine the
day before yesterday in the afternoon, the wind showed up again and we
had a day of 161 miles over the ground and 165 over the water. Not bad !
Today, I will most probably report a 147 miles day over the ground and
141 through the water. For a day where we felt becalmed most of the day,
it is more than satisfying.
As far as DIY goes, our local McGyver (a.k.a. Olivier) found a way to
fix the vent cover problem. We had purchased in Australia a plastic
container to be used to store the butter in use in the fridge. Nice red
box, however there were only sold in packs of three, so we had 2 too
many. Since their size fits exactly on the outside of the base of the
vent covers that went overboard, Olivier could fit them there with the
help of silicone and duct tape, and cut one end of the box as air
passage. Beautiful job ! We will add a few screws once in the Cocos and
it will be like new new.
As far as leaks go, we have identified them but can't do much about them
right now. The forward hatch will have to be rebuilt with a new lens and
a new packing, or replaced if we can find one that fits the deck
opening. This hatch was made 25 years ago and they don't make them
anymore and there are no parts available for them.
The passage of the mast through the deck, which is a constant headache,
will require the deck plate to be lifted, the deck and the underneath of
the plate cleaned thoroughly, new sealing compound applied and
everything secured back in place.
Then there is a hatch on the port side, which is the weather side
throughout the pacific and the indian oceans, abaft of the chart table,
above the port side water tanks which definitely will have to be replaced.
Apart from all that, we are now deeply in our daily routine, with two
hour watches, breakfast at 9, lunch at 1 and dinner at 7. My mind keep
wandering and wondering about the passage across the Mozambique channel.
This is one of the most hazardous areas in the world in terms of weather
and I want to play it as safe as I know how. In addition to my weather
router based in Perth, I am in contact with friends in South Africa, and
with Tom which has been an unvaluable help since the Panama canal.
I have to accumulate detailed informations on the agulhas current, on
the groups of lows coming out of the south atlantic and travelling up
the east coast of Africa and define the best possible strategy to get
I must admit that I will feel a lot better once in Capetown.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First blood !

Yesterday turned out worse than a bad day ! Yet, it had started well. At
noon, we were reporting a 160 miles day, and we were settling down for
lunch, happy to be sailing at more than 6 knots in light winds with the
gennaker up.
Between two bites, I looked up through the main cabin hatch, and . . .
no gennaker to be seen. We rushed outside to find the halyard on deck
and the gennaker underneath the boat !
It took us two hours to recover the gennaker gently without damaging
anything, then try and rig up a halyard without going up the mast, which
I would not like to see any of us do because of the constant rolling.
What we do, we put a block at the end of the spare genoa halyard and
then pass another halyard into that block to be used with the gennaker.
This way, the halyard would not pull sideways out of the fixed block of
the genoa halyard, which would most certainly cut the halyard.
All that being done, we set up the gennaker again. Unfortunately, by
that time, the wind has gone away and left us with a light breeze that
can push us only at 4 knots or less. And as the night progresses, things
get worse and with the rolling caused by the indian ocean swell both
sails are flapping furiously and the sheets whipping on deck quite
strongly. Eventually, the gennaker sheet found its way across the
coaming of the cockpit on the starboard side and took with it two covers
of the vents going into the engine compartment. As long as we receive
the seas from the port side, no sweat. But if it were from the other
side, we could have a lot of water going into the engine compartment. We
wll have to figure out some kind of emergency repairs to enable us to
get to Mauritius as dry as we can.
Also, while Olivier and I were dancing frantically on the foredeck to
recover the gennaker, we must have stepped heavily on the forward hatch
and the lens has cracked from side to side. This could very quickly make
the forward cabin very wet. Another emergency repair to figure out.
Today, the wind is still missing on the roll call. And I am told that we
might have to wait until Tuesday to get some. We have more than 100
hours of motoring in fuel capacity, but I don't expect to find any fuel
in the Cocos. so we have to manage it carefully.
By the way, I almost forgot the good news. Today at noon, we were past
the mid point between Darwin and Cocos, and this in one week. We deserve
a pat in the back since we had been told that the trip would take 16
days. Well. we are not there yet !
But we can hope.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free at last from the grip of the Wallabies !

This time, we have definitely left the area still influenced by the lee
of Australia and the Kimberleys. We continue to enjoy good wind, a
little unsteady in direction but with good strength, which is what we
need. Today, we have gone 162 nautical miles over the ground, which is
one of our best days so far. Still, I can't tell what part of this is
the benefit of the new Variprop prop. I reckon that we probably gained
on average 1/2 knot, which would be 12 miles per day. Not bad and
certainly very valuable on a long crossing. We probably gained 1 knot in
light winds, 1/2 knot in winds up to 20 knots and less as we approach
our hull speed.
Yesterday a stow away identical to the one that spent the night on the
solar panels near the Fiji spent the night with us. This time, it
established camp on the roof of the aft cabin, had a good night sleep
and flew away at sun rise this morning.
This morning, we also sailed through a band of very strong showers with
a lot of water in them and fortunately not too much wind. We could have
a real shower, complete with watering, soaping, rubbing, rinsing and
then some. Very refreshing. And we did not have to use our own fresh
water, of which we have plenty. At the rate of our consumption so far
(2.56 US Gallons per day for the two of us) we still have almost 80 days
Inside the boat was another story. The main cabin table also had a good
shower, this one coming through the passage of the mast throug the deck.
The spartite is brand new from New Zealand, the deck plate has been
recaulked in Sydney. And still, it leaks. This time Olivier think that
it is coming through the grove at the back meant for the main sail
travelers, and the one at the front for the spinnaker pole. We will try
and stuff it with silicone while we wait to be in the Cocos and do a
better job.
We are still making our ETA as July 11th early morning, but the forecast
calls for very light winds over the week-end and this might be delaying
us. As long as we get there before the final of the World Cup of soccer,
it's OK.