Cocos to Durban  August-September 2009

August 11
Indian Ocean:  Monday

0850  Anchor came up followed by a pretty trail of white sand at 0745.  I was ready to leave at 0700, but clouds to the east looked like a passing shower, so I waited for a while, and when it didn’t arrive, started cranking in the last 75’ of chain.  I had brought in 50’ and released the snubbing lines an hour earlier.

With the engine moving us slowly and the tiller pilot steering, I removed the anchor from the chain and stowed it below, then turned north out the pass.  We had to go a mile and a half north to clear the reef off Horsburgh Island on the other side of the lagoon.  

As we fell off the wind, I raised the jib, cut the engine, engaged the Monitor, and disengaged the tiller pilot.  Fifteen minutes ago I jibed to port broad reach and we are sailing more or less toward Durban, 3820 miles away.

A few cans and bottles are clinking, and I need to stuff wads of paper towel around glasses and silverware, but we are essentially back in passage mode.

After being blown inside out half our time at Cocos, we return to the same conditions at sea we had from Bali:  light wind astern.  The spinnaker may be back up soon.

Cocos is a pretty spot, and the only place this year that I haven’t been before, but, as always, I’m glad to be back at sea.

1210  The resemblance to conditions between Bali and Cocos quickly ended.  

Light rain caught up with us mid-morning.  Enough for a while to force me to close the hatches and the companionway, which made the cabin hot and stuffy.  

Sky continues to be completely covered with low overcast, but no rain at present so companionway part way open.  Wind 20 knots.  Seas 6’.  Boat speed 6+ knots under jib alone.  Wind angle would permit me to set main, and I may if wind steadies.  It is being bent and increased around patches of rain.

Noon:  12º 08’ South; 96º 33’ East.  Durban  3801 miles, bearing 254º.

1610  Just stuck my head outside and found a stormy sea, something I haven’t seen since a few days out of New Zealand.  Not seriously stormy, but all gray:  the sea dark gray; the sky various medium to lighter shades, and almost white in a few places to the west.

THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is sailing with power, 6 and 7 knots, slashing across the faces of 8’ waves.  Rather nice after more than a thousand miles of easing along.  I did have wind out of Darwin, but always had my foot on the brake so we wouldn’t reach Bali before the date on my cruising permit.

Light rain forced me to close the companionway earlier, but I now have the top half open for fresh air.  Did put the spray cover over the engine control panel--hopefully no pirates--after taking a wave in the cockpit.  It was this ocean that caused me to start using a spray cover on the engine control panel.  In RESURGAM we took so many waves in the cockpit on the passage from Christmas Island to Mauritius that it shorted out the ignition switch.  Went aft and removed the two cowl vents and inserted the covering plates.  First time I’ve done that this year.

The barometer is down only a few millibars.  I haven’t heard a weather forecast since Darwin.  Just good sailing under jib alone at present.   

August 12
Indian Ocean:  Tuesday

0530  Conditions moderated during the night, and at 0100 I let out two rolls I had in the jib and left the companionway hatch halfway open.  We still have a 6 knot average since noon, but the wind is down to 10 to 12 knots and our current boat speed around 5.5.  At first light sky still low overcast; seas only 2’-3’.  Listening to Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedies” with my first cup of coffee.

1210  Mix of sun and clouds.  Low clouds burn away, then regather.  Also a layer of high cloud.  Wind 18-20 SSE.  Waves mostly 4’ to 5’, with occasional bigger swell from the south.  Sailing well under jib alone.

Had a good start with a 6 knot average noon to noon.

Noon position:   12º 50’ South; 94 º 10’ East.  Day’s run:  146 miles.  Durban:  3655 miles, bearing 254º.

1700  Good sailing.  Averaging 6.5 knots since noon.   After doing some exercises,  I sat on deck, enjoying being there and listening to music on the iPod until a wave broke over me.  Water is warm, but a nuisance to get my clothes and the cushion wet.  Low clouds come and go.  Looks like rain behind us, but that may just be shadows from the setting sun.

Drinking the penultimate gin and tonic.  

1730  Just got wet again, though not as wet.  

Clouds did bring light rain and, briefly, wind of 27 knots, which overwhelmed the Monitor and heeled us far over.  I climbed into the cockpit and partially furled the jib, which got us back under control.  Also moved the chain connecting the Monitor control lines to the tiller one link to windward, which gives the vane more leverage.

At the moment making 7.1 knots in 23 knots of wind.

Time for dinner of freeze dry roast chicken with peas, corn, and mashed potatoes.  One of my favorites.

August 13
Indian Ocean:  Wednesday

A rough night, with increasing wind and some heavy rain.  For a while we seemed to be skipping across the ocean like a flat stone thrown on a pond, but at 0030 we were going too fast and on the edge of the Monitor losing control, so I went on deck and deeply furled the jib.  Not storm jib size yet, but close.

Awakened several times, heavy hissing rain got me up for good at 0515.

Because of the intermittent showers, which seldom last more than five minutes, and spray from waves, I had to sleep with the companionway closed except for a quarter inch crack at the top.  Some water found its way through that onto my head.

The sky is completely overcast with mid-level clouds.  Waves mostly 5’ to 6’, and wind in the low 20s.  Pretty much the conditions we had a week ago in Cocos.  At times our boat speed drops below 6 knots and I am tempted to let out a little more jib, but it quickly returns above 6 knots and I leave things as they are.

Last evening I was curious about the Olympics, and managed to find both the Voice of America and the BBC on my radio receiver.  The BBC had extensive coverage, and I’ll probably listen again tonight.  Also heard the news for the first time since Darwin.  People are killing one another, and politicians are uttering self-serving banalities.

1010  Gray world.  Low clouds have regathered.  Wind 22-24 knots, gusting 28.  Waves are not big--8’ at most--but some are steep.  Usually we are sailing heeled 10º-15º, but frequently waves catch us at an angle and we briefly go over 30º to 40º, which is enough to splash even a small amount of water in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s shallow bilge over the floorboards.  I pumped two or three buckets full out a while ago.  Can’t fill a bucket more than half full without it spilling over.  Nothing much in the engine compartment.  Barometer up a millibar

I had planned to shave and take a fresh water shower this afternoon from the solar shower bag, filled with Direction Island water, this afternoon.  It is lying in the aft part of the cockpit.  Might still shave, but the shower seems unlikely.

Four small flying fish leapt the wrong direction sometime last night and ended up in the cockpit.

Despite the complete cloud cover, I’m getting some charging from the solar panels.

This is how I remember the passage across this ocean in RESURGAM in 1987.

1240  Partial clearing with sunshine, but more clouds on the horizon and the wind at 27 knots.

I shaved and had a cat bath this morning with less than two cups of water.

We had a 150 mile day.  Five more and we’ll have a very good first week.

Noon position:  13º 21’ South; 91º 41’ East.  Day’s run:  150.  Durban:  3509 miles, bearing 254º.

1630  The briefly blue ocean is again slate and charcoal.  The sky again completely overcast.  And the barometer has fallen two millibars.

While the sailing is good, I wish it were dry enough to be able to sit on deck.  The only way would be to wear foul weather gear, and it is too hot for that.  So I stand on the second rung of the companionway ladder, which puts my head and shoulders above deck level, but protected by the dodger.  Not quite as pleasant as sitting in sunshine.

The shorts and tee-shirt that were soaked yesterday are not yet dry.  I have them hanging on the handholds beside the companionway.  It seems that eventually I’ll have to toss them into a trash bag separate from the dry dirty clothes, where they will ferment until Africa.

I’ve been watching the BBC Planet Earth DVD’s again, usually two episodes a night, but since I would like to hear the BBC Olympic report, I watched them this afternoon.

Also halfway through the 1135 page novel, WITH FIRE AND SWORD, about a Cossack rebellion in 1647 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  This is the first of a trilogy, and good enough so I’ll try to buy the next two volumes when I’m back in America.

The author Henryk Sienkiewicz is more famous for QUO VADIS, but won the Noble Prize for literature for the trilogy.  Although I saw the movie version of QUO VADIS as a child, I’ve never read it, nor had heard of Sienkiewicz until he was mentioned in a column in the Sunday CHICAGO TRIBUNE.


August 14
Indian Ocean:  Thursday

0630  Gloomy ocean.

I woke at midnight and we were moving so smoothly that I thought we had slowed and needed more sail, but when I turned on the chartplotter, we were still making more than 6 knots.

Heavy rain at first light again this morning also brought the strongest wind so far, which for a few minutes overpowered the Monitor and turned us south.  Several waves came aboard.  I expected it to be brief, and it was.  When I stuck my head out after it had passed, the wind was still blowing 26 apparent and 32 true, which seems right and means that during the gust when it was at least 2 knots higher, it was gale strength.

Complete low overcast.  Barometer steady.

As is apparent from the above, the masthead wind unit has continued transmitting on this passage despite limited sunlight for solar charging.  Inexplicable.

1245  We have 30+ knots of wind, sometimes reaching 34 and 35 knots, the lower end of gale force.

Until I furled the jib down to less than storm jib size a couple of hours ago, we were taking too many waves over the deck and into the cockpit.  The decreased sail area has helped reduce that, while maintaining our boat speed at 6 and 7 knots.

Some clearing near noon, with sun shining through a couple of layers of cloud.

To go on deck is to get wet.  I’ve done so three times:  twice to reduce jib, and once to check out the Monitor.  

Waves and blowing spray force me to keep both inserts in the companionway.  They are clear plexiglass, so I can see out, but am using a battery fan to keep cool in stuffy cabin.

I’m already on record as saying there is no such thing a milk run, and this isn’t,  Still we’re making good progress, though being pushed a bit north of the desired course.  The bearing to Durban has changed one degree.  This is of no consequence for a place more than 3,000 miles distant.

Noon Position:  13º 40’ South; 89º 07’ East.  Day’s run:  151.  Durban:  3364 miles, bearing 253º.    

1800  Wind has decreased to mid-20s, and our boat speed sometimes below 6 knots.  I’ll increase sail when our average drops below 6.  We’ve done 37 miles since noon.  Taking few waves over the deck.  Have the top companionway out.  Breeze coming in makes a big difference.

There was an Englishman in Darwin who was cruising with crew in a 46’ custom race boat whose interior he claimed remained completely dry no matter how severe the weather.  Wonder what that would be like.

August 15
Indian Ocean:  Friday

1215  Conditions about the same.  High overcast at present, rather than low.  Wind 25-30 knots.  Waves 6’.  Boat speed 6 knots.

Last night just after midnight, I increased sail area to my immediate regret.  A smooth ride became rough, with three successive waves slamming into us as soon as I got back in my berth, so I went on deck and furled the jib back to minimum.

The full moon shown through the clouds briefly.

Water sloshing over floorboards this morning.  Less than three buckets full when I pumped.  Pumping is a hassle when heeled over and rolling.  To get to the bilge I have to remove the table from the mast, then the two inserts at the base of the mast, then lift one section of floorboard, all of which have to be wedged near the galley to keep them from flopping about while I use a hand pump and a bucket to empty the water in the bilge, which itself is sloshing to and fro.  

Still we continue to make good progress:  another 6 knot day.  Adjusted the Monitor to steer closer to 250º.

Lunch is either cheese and crackers or a can of tuna or salmon with crackers.  Tuna today.

Bought some apples at Cocos, which were the only fresh fruit available.  Looked good.  Felt firm.  But mushy.  Must have been frozen in transit.

Wish I could figure out how to bathe myself.

Noon position:  14º 16’ South; 86º 43’ East.  Day’s run:  144.  Durban:  3221, bearing 253º.  

1820  At 1800 we were a half mile below a six knot average since noon, so I increased the jib area slightly.  The wind is still in the 20s, and it feels as though we are sailing as we have been.  Perhaps a counter current.  Unless we slow down substantially, I’m not going to add more sail area before dawn.  We are still taking the occasional wave, and they are hard hits that shake the entire boat.

Fell asleep this afternoon while reading.  Sleep at night is very broken.

Today was cooler than the past few.  High temperature in the cabin was 79ºF.  The sun never fully broke through the various layers of clouds.  I’m getting tired of being confined to the cabin.

Drinking the last of the gin.  Thought about saving it, but didn’t come up with any good reason.

Would like some sunshine and the wind to back to the east.

August 16
Indian Ocean:  Saturday

0815   Carol and I were married fourteen years ago today in Key West.  Happy anniversary from the other side of the world, my love.

Partial clearing.  Low clouds gone; high clouds still present, but patchy,  Direct sunlight.  Something we seldom have had since Cocos, and not at all yesterday.

Although the wind continued in the low-20s apparent, we were a few miles below a six knot average when I got up at 0500.  At first light a half hour later, I doubled the size of the jib.  Still not a large amount of sail, but the effect was immediate.  Our boat speed increased to 7 knots, and the boat just felt right, moving more purposefully through the water, though we also began to take a few more waves aboard.

Pumped about three buckets full of water from the bilge.

This has been a long time for any conditions to last at sea.  The trade wind will blow more or less forever, but the overcast and rain should not be permanent.   

The motion of the boat is such that I must always have a handhold or brace myself with knee or hip when doing things that require both hands, such as squeezing toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Today is a shaving day, and I am going to try to figure out how to bathe.  Might be a combination of fresh water from the shower bag and salt water from whatever waves come aboard while I’m out there.

1320  Just finished Siekiewicz’s WITH FIRE AND SWORD.  It says much that after 1100 pages I was still eager to find out what happened next.  In addition to being an historical novel that is said to have helped form the Polish national character, it owes something to Alexandre Dumas’ THREE MUSKETEERS. Interesting for its depiction of a time and place of which I knew little, and a good plot, with star-crossed lovers and complex villains.  

This morning’s sunshine has been lost behind regathered overcast, but lasted long enough for me to have a cool fresh water shower in the cockpit, without even an involuntary salt water rinse.  Feels good to be clean again, however briefly.

The added sail area enabled us to achieve a fifth successive 6 knot day.

Noon position:  15º 05’ South; 84º 21’ East.  Day’s run:  146 miles.  
Durban:  3074 miles, bearing 253º.

Sometime tonight we will enter a new time zone and Durban will be less than 3000 miles distant.

Barometer up another millibar.

The mast head wind instrument has stopped transmitting.    

August 17
Indian Ocean:  Sunday

0520  We were entering the new time zone, GMT +5, just as I got up an hour ago, and I’ve changed the clocks.  This is the same time as Pakistan.  We are in fact 1200 miles due south of Sri Lanka.  So one time zone down and three to go.  Actually 2½ because Durban is near the middle of the +2 zone.

I had the pleasure of the full moon moving behind scattered high clouds last evening.  An Albert Ryder sky.  I have read that his paintings are considered Romantic, but ever since I started sailing the open ocean, I have found them realistic.  I think he painted them in a cluttered apartment in Greenwich Village and only made one crossing of the Atlantic as a passenger.  His paintings were not properly prepared, and the ones I have seen in museums are cracking badly. Other than a brief glimpse a night or two ago, that is the first I’ve seen of the moon.  Sailing with a full moon reflecting on clouds and waves is one of the great pleasures of this way of life.

At 0230 I woke because the wind was light.  How light, of course, I no longer precisely know, but around 12 to 14 knots I think, with waves down to 4’.  Our average was still good, so I didn’t set more sail until I got up.  Now have about ⅔ of the jib unfurled.  May set more with the coming of dawn, or may set less with the coming of more wind.

I was also awake around midnight.  The table, which gets used only occasionally when Carol is aboard and by officials when clearing into port and lives folded against the mast, was rattling despite paper towels stuffed around its various parts.  After all these years and tens of thousands of miles, I suddenly realized that it has no need to be there during an ocean passage and should be stowed on the v-berth.  I did so.  This not only removes a source of rattles, but eliminates an awkward object that must be moved when I pump the bilge and leaves more room to move in the main cabin.

I usually sit on the lower settee berth facing aft, with my back to the main bulkhead.  Through the companionway I see the sky began to lighten.  Not yet dawn.  Some wisps of low clouds.  Might be a nice day.

1205  Early sunlight has given way to low overcast again.  However the wind has remained 16 to 18 and, while we are still making 6 and 7 knots, the sailing is easier than it has been.  Unfortunately at unpredictable intervals, but at least once every half hour, a wave comes aboard, so no sitting on deck.

Tired from being awake last night.  Took a brief nap this morning.  Started rereading Nelson Mandela’s LONG WALK TO FREEDOM.  Despite obviously being a political document, it is interesting, particularly about his childhood.

Noon position:  15º 59’ South; 81º 44’ East.  Day’s run:  161 miles (25 hour day).  Durban:  2913 miles, bearing 253º.   

1530  While we have been making good progress, until today they were not easy miles.  Not as hard as if we were going to windward, but for off the wind the motion has been rough.  Today has been as fast--we’re averaging 7 knots since noon--but with smaller waves smoother.  At least until the last few minutes when things seem to have picked up.

Continued mostly overcast.

I went on deck briefly, and while there went aft to check the Monitor.  A wave caught us just then.  I found myself hanging onto the backstay, leaning way out over the water.  

So far, despite the lack of direct sunlight, the solar panels are keeping the batteries charged.  I don’t use much electricity.  The chart plotter is on for 12 to 14 hours, I play music several hours a day, and the masthead tricolor light, which is an LED, is on for nine or ten hours.  None of these draws much.  In the evening I usually use a LED reading light rather than the cabin lights.  The computer is on between one and three hours, depending on if I watch a movie, but is only plugged in about half that.

We’re starting to get thrown around.  Have to see if I need to reduce sail.  

Really miss being able to sit on deck for a few hours each afternoon.

August 18
Indian Ocean:  Monday

0615  The full jib is set, and we already have a thousand mile week.

Just after I made the last entry yesterday afternoon, rain brought an increase in wind.  I went on deck and reduced sail twice.  An hour later, the rain had ended and the wind dropped, so I let out a little more jib.

At 0100 I woke and found our speed 5.5 knots and our course 230º.  The wind had backed a bit to the east as I wished.  On deck the moon was hidden beyond overcast, but provided some light.  I let out more jib.  At 0400 quiet woke me again.   Boat speed 5.2 knots.   I got up and went on deck.  Still overcast.  Waves down to 2’ to 3’.  Let out more jib, then decided to let it all out.  Speed increased to 6.4.

Now at dawn, the boat speed is back in the 5.5 to 6.3 range.  Sky overcast.  Rain to south.  Barometer up a millibar.  

With almost six hours to noon, we have made 1009 miles since our noon position last Monday.  1008 is a six knot average.  Thousand mile weeks are good on a boat like THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  Not unknown, but also not common.  

I’m going to go up and drink my coffee on deck while I can.

1205  Breakfast on deck, followed by light rain most of the morning.

During a break in the rain, I went back on deck to check lines for chaff.  I was standing at the mast when a wave doused me.  I plan to change clothes every three days, and this is a day early.  

Rain has stopped and a few patches of blue sky have appeared.  Still sailing under full jib at 6.8 knots at the moment.

Noon position:  16º 51’ South; 79º 17’ East.  Day’s run:  151 miles.  Week’s run:  1041 miles.  Durban:  2761 miles, bearing 254º.  Still 13º of latitude and 48º of longitude to go.

Varied my cheese and cracker lunch to cheese, Vegemite and crackers.  The cheese is the French “La Vache qui rit”  (The Laughing Cow) which does not require refrigeration, though you sometimes find it so in supermarkets.  

August 19
Indian Ocean:  Tuesday

0650  I may have to move.  The sun is blinding me.  A welcome change.  This might be a nice day.

I slept well last night, waking at 0230 to increase the jib, and then going to full jib when I got up at 0545.   Complete low overcast last night gave way to a full moon visible behind broken clouds at 0230.  This morning we still have some clouds, which unfortunately seem to be thickening.  Depending on which prevails--sun or cloud--I might do something radical and set the mainsail.  Our boat speed is hovering around 6 knots.

One of my barometers has failed.  It is electronic and on a starboard bulkhead three feet from the companionway and may have gotten too much spray.  The other barometer is in a Suunto watch and shows an increase of a millibar.

Although I am still well within the Tropics, it has felt cool rather than tropical.  I could use a sunny, easy day.

1205  Lovely.  

Sat on deck, listening to music this morning.  Sunny, trade wind sky.  Wind 10-12 knots.  We could use the main, but are still making 6 knots without it.  May set it this afternoon, after I have a shower.  May just enjoy the present conditions.

Took advantage of the smooth sailing to go forward and check out the furling gear, then worked my way aft.  There has been a sound between a squeak and a clunk coming from the mast.  Haven’t been able to see anything wrong or find the source.  May have done so this morning, when I shifted the boom to port.  It had been centered, but I saw that it is partially blocking the fixed solar panel on deck between the mast and companionway.   At this time of year the sun is always going to be north of us.  In moving the boom, I released some of the tension on the main halyard, which may have been making the sound as it passes over a sheave at the masthead.  

Saw that one of the Monitor control lines was chaffing at the end secured to the servo-rudder.  I installed new lines before I left New Zealand, but that was more than 6,000 miles ago.  I buy lines a few feet longer than needed, with the extra left loose at the cockpit end.  Easy in smooth conditions to switch to tiller pilot steering, release the lines, shift them a few inches outward, then retie the knots.  

Didn’t see anything else that requires attention.

Drying my shoes and some cushions.  Have the deck hatches open, as well as companionway.

The middle part of a long passage is often mentally the most difficult, particularly when the sailing has not been pleasant as, until today, it hasn’t on this passage.   I am tired of being grubby, am looking forward to fresh food, a long shower, and a drink or two, and not having constantly to brace against the motion of the boat.  Yet there is still too far to go to start thinking about the end.  So I deliberately don’t do so.  I concentrate on keeping the boat moving, and take the passage week by week.  The next goal is to reduce the distance to go to less than 2,000 miles.  Perhaps in four days.  Then a day after that, we should be more than half way.

It is very, very good to have this respite.

Noon position:  17º 29’ South; 76º 43’ East.  Day’s run:  152.  Durban 2610, bearing 253º.   

1600  A wonderful day.  Beam reaching at 7 knots under main and jib. Blue sky with white puffs of trade wind cloud.   THE HAWKE OF TUONELA moving effortlessly through the water.

I set the main after I showered at 1300.  Our boat speed was hovering around 5.5 knots.

There is enough water in the solar shower bag for one more fresh water shower.  This is still Cocos water from when I filled the bag before I left.  Assuming we continue to make good progress, I have enough water on board to use for showers.  Using bottled water for drinking and cooking, and water from the leaking bigger water tank to rinse cups and face. 

Also inventoried my cans of soft drinks and beer.  Have enough for a can of each per day for three more weeks, and in three weeks I’ll either be there or close.

Sat on deck most of the afternoon, listening to music and enjoying the sailing.

August 20
Indian Ocean:  Wednesday

0710  Perfection continues.  Starry sky last night.  Waves illuminated by full moon.

I had my coffee on deck this morning with the moon to the west and first sunlight to the east.  Although the temperature is 71ºF/ 22ºC, with 10 to 12 knots of wind, it was cool enough so I dug out an old fleece and passage Levis to wear.  

The solid boom vang was making an intermittent loud clanking noise as the lower end attached to a fitting at the base of the mast rose and fell with waves.  This has happened before, and I thought I had cured it by adding washers.  Temporary solution has been to tightened the boom vang, tie off the preventer line, which runs from the same mid-boom fitting, then release the vang.  The preventer holds the boom in place quietly.  Will try to find a better solution in port.

Some clouds around this morning.  Hope they are just normal tropical dawn clouds that the sun will burn away.  Be quite happy for present conditions to continue.

1205  Still fine trade wind weather, but wind a bit stronger, about 16 knots, and I lowered mainsail an hour ago.  Continuing to make 6.4 under jib alone.  Unfortunately I just heard a wave come aboard.   Spent part of the morning on deck.  May not be able to do so this afternoon.

Easy sailing is often the most productive.

Noon position:  18º 16’ South; 74º 04’ East.  Day’s run:  159 miles.  Durban:  2451 miles, bearing 254º.

1700  Mainsail back up by 1300.  Wind weakened instead of continuing to strengthen.  Sunny afternoon.  Continue at 6.3 knots.  Not quite as smooth a ride as yesterday, but still fine sailing.   

August 21
Indian Ocean:  Thursday

0700  Not sure if we are going to have a six knot day.  We almost ran out of wind last night.  Sails slatted some.  But the seas smoothed and we kept moving.  Wind presently 8 knots, and our boat speed more often below 6 knots than above it.  5.6 at present.

Coffee on deck in pre-dawn light.  Levis and fleece again.  Air is cool and fresh.  Listening to Shostakovich’s “Preludes and Fugues” on earphones.  Lightly tripping music perfect for the conditions.

Sky overhead clear, with a few clouds scattered about horizon.  A band of diffuse color ahead, blending together:  rose, peach, pale yellow, pale blue.

Dawn came at 0628.  I was facing away from the sun, but saw the immediate change of light on the sea and the sails.   Low waves gained definition and facets.  

These are conditions in which a traditional cruising boat would be sluggish, if not dead in the water, but a boat like THE HAWKE OF TUONELA keeps moving.  Even as the wind increases the advantages of an easier driven hull continue because less sail is needed to maintain speed, which means less strain on boat, rig and crew.  You have to like a boat that does around six knots--present boat speed 6.3--in eight knots of wind.

Barometer up another 2 millibars.  I didn’t need to look to know that we are under high pressure.  Just hope it doesn’t build until it kills the wind completely.

Such moments as those on deck this pre-dawn are one of the joys of passage making.  You go through some discomfort, and then suddenly there they are.  If I had been on my mooring in New Zealand, I might have seen the dawn through the companionway.  If I had been coasting, I might have just been raising anchor and getting underway.  If I had been in Evanston, I would probably have been sitting down in the living room with a first cup of coffee and going online.  I find myself looking forward to being back in the comforts of the condo with Carol for a while.  But I’m glad I was here this morning.

1210  As expected our first day below a six knot average, though only slightly.

Beautiful, blue sky day.  A few scattered puffs of cloud.  Wind has remained around 8 knots, and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA has continued to sail at 5+ knots, occasionally 6.  I haven’t been too concerned about our course, which has varied from 270º to 230º, letting the Monitor keep the boat moving just forward of a beam reach.  Too much tinkering with the course will only upset the boat’s balance and speed.

Read my assigned one hundred pages of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography.  He is now imprisoned on Robben Island, just off Cape Town.  I sailed past it in RESURGAM in 1988 on my way up to Namibia, but he was no longer there, having been moved to a prison on the mainland in 1982.  Carol and I visited it in 2002 and saw his cell.

Also pumped a bucket full of water from the bilge.  Almost none in the engine compartment.  I didn’t expect much with the fine weather these past few days.  Don’t know where all the water comes from in heavy weather.  Some through the anchor chain deck fitting, which is not water tight. But surely not all.  Same thing happened on RESURGAM.

Shaved.  Even though it has only been two days, I feel fresher.

Oiled some spots on the cabin sole that usually I miss when the table is in place.  

When there is more shade on deck, I’ll put on some sun screen and sit outside for a while.

Hope the wind holds.

Noon position:  19º 00’ South; 71º 42’ East.  Day’s run:  142 miles.  
Durban:  2309 miles, bearing 254º.    

1700  The ocean was like a gently undulating meadow this afternoon, with an occasional swell raising us, briefly, as though on a hilltop overlooking the landscape/seascape.

I sat on deck listening to music on iPod and headphones.  It was cool enough in the shadow of the sails so that I went below to change into the Levis and fleece I wore this morning.

An armada of trade wind clouds to the southeast eventually reached us, bringing another couple of knots of wind, and giving us another half knot of boat speed.

Speed wasn’t really the point.  All our days are numbered, and I am well aware that my numbers are not great.  I cherish such dawns and afternoons.

August 22
Indian Ocean:  Friday

0645  A difficult night.  Not rough, just difficult.

Not long after sunset, the wind strengthened to around 20 knots and backed WSW, bringing us onto a close reach.  With the wind forward of the beam, I like to have the mainsail set to reduce the mast from pumping, so left it up and deeply furled the jib.

After an hour the wind decreased to 14 knots and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was off course, so I added more jib and adjusted the Monitor.

This continued all night long.  Every hour or so when I awoke, the boat was sailing either 230º or 265º--the desired course is 254, but anywhere averaging in that vicinity is acceptable--and the wind had changed in strength, so I had to adjust the Monitor and the jib.

We are near the western side of this time zone, so dawn is late.  It was still dark the last time I woke at 0515.  Normally I would have gotten up for good, but went back to sleep for another hour.

When I did get up a half hour ago, I let out more jib and reset the Monitor.  Just looked at the instrument display.  We’re sailing 273º.  Damn.

1205  Barometer still high, but sky no longer has that completely clear look that often presages a flat calm.  Sunny trade wind sky.  Still sailing under main and jib, and still having trouble staying near course.  Also taking occasional water on deck.  Problem is the wave angle, which pushes us off course, either high or low.   May lower main this afternoon to see if we can still maintain speed under jib alone.

Did exercises this morning, swept cabin sole.

Morning passes faster when you get up at 0615 instead of before 0500.

Noon position:  19º 45’ South; 69º 12’ East.  Day’s run:  149.  Durban:  2160 miles, bearing 254º. 

1645  Lowered main at 1330 and thought for a while that I’d made a mistake.  Finally got boat rebalanced and jib properly trimmed.  Making 6.5 knots ever since and Monitor better able to keep us close to 254º.

Wind now about 16 to 18 knots slightly aft of beam.  Trade winds sky, but barometer down a millibar.

August 23,
Indian Ocean:  Saturday 

0545  New time zone:  +4 GMT.  Same time as in Mauritius, and the nearest land, Rodriquez Island, which is part of Mauritius, is only a little more than 200 miles away.  We could probably be there before tomorrow sunset, but won’t be.

Tomorrow should see the midway point of the passage.  We’ll have reduced the distance to Durban to less than 2,000 miles this afternoon or evening; and are on track to have sailed more than 2,000 miles from Cocos by Monday.

Wind is just forward of the beam, which made for some rough sailing last night and again puts considerable water across the deck.  My dry Levis aren’t completely any longer.  Spray got me while I was trimming the jib a few minutes ago.  Glad it wasn’t a full wave.

This boat has a set of bulkhead aft of the mast, one of which I am leaning back against at the moment, and another about three feet forward.  In between are the head to port and the small galley to starboard.  

The aft bulkheads are connected by an aluminum cross piece, and the forward by one of wood.  The forward one is creaking loudly as we go  into these waves.  Obviously the hull is trying to flex there.  Don’t see any sign of cracks, so presumably/hopefully the wood is doing its job.

In first light the sky looks the same.   Scattered trade wind clouds. Barometer steady.  

1205  Had company an hour ago.  After I finished LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, I went on deck.  The wind backed to the southeast, which has brought the wind and waves to just aft of the beam instead of just forward, which makes a huge difference.  Sailing smoothly, no groaning from the wood cross beam; but still the odd wave coming on deck, so no sitting there, but I remained dry standing.  I was surprised to see on the horizon ahead of us a ship.  Eventually it passed close, probably looking us over.  Orange hull; yellow bridge.  Looked like a carrier of liquid cargo, though not an oil tanker.

Bluer sky than yesterday with fewer trade wind clouds.  Wind 16 to 18.  

Noon position:  20º 30’ South; 66º 31’ East.  Day’s run:  158  (25 hours).  Durban:  2002 miles, bearing 254º.

I’m moving toward the edge of the tropics, and the wind is cooler.  Less than 2000 miles to go within a few minutes.

1710  Almost sunset, which comes early having just entered this time zone.

Great sailing this afternoon, averaging better than 7 knots since noon, mostly smooth and quiet, though a bit rougher this last few minutes.

I went on deck at intervals, mostly stood in the cockpit, balancing with my hands on the dodger or a handhold at the mainsheet traveler.  Also stood at the stern, hanging onto the backstay.  Seas 6’.  Wind 18 to 20 knots.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was sliding diagonally across the waves, with speeds often, though briefly, above 8 knots.  Big bow wave of white water on the lee side.

In the absence of anything stronger, I’ve reverted to my habit during my early circumnavigations of having a cup of Lapsang Souchong tea in the evening.  Somewhere in the website journal there is an entry about the tastes of the sea.  Lapsang Souchong is one of them.

I’d very much like to have a glass of Laphroaig--which is another taste of the sea--or some red wine or even a martini, but in fact not having a couple of drinks in the evening hasn’t been difficult or made any appreciable difference.  Not that I won’t be making my way to a yacht club bar soon after arriving in Durban.

Temperature in the low 70s, but wind cool and I put on Levis and fleece a little while ago.   

August 24
Indian Ocean:  Sunday

0700  Excitement last night.  Rather more than I needed.

We continued to sail well, maintaining a better than 7 knot average from noon to 0200 when I awoke because the boat had heeled far over and rounded up in what, as I expected, was strong wind in front of a line of rain.

I pulled myself into the cockpit and furled the jib to storm jib size, which enabled the Monitor to regain control of the boat.  I didn’t bother with clothes.  It is easier to dry skin than fabric.  it was a bit cool on deck.

Expecting the strong wind wouldn’t last and we would then be under canvased, I stayed awake for a while, and didn’t realize I had fallen asleep until I wakened again  at 0330 to feel the boat moving awkwardly through the waves, though this time it didn’t seem that the cause was strong wind.

I went on deck and saw that though the Monitor’s vane and control lines were moving, they weren’t turning the tiller.  In complete dark I had on my headlamp which only illuminates a small area and it took a while before I discovered that the top to the rod that connects the vane to the servo-rudder had come away from its fitting.  This is not an area of stress and as I discovered it is held in place by a tiny retaining clip, which had somehow fallen out.

I brought out the tiller pilot to steer, while I went through my Monitor spares.  I didn’t think I had one of these retaining clips, which would be about a 1 cent item, and I didn’t.

Eventually, after first light, I jury rigged a way to secure the rod with seizing wire.  Obviously I don’t know how long this will hold, but again it is not stressed, only keeping a rod from falling away from a fitting.

As often happens, problems multiplied.  A small block of teak epoxied beneath the tiller to keep it elevated came loose.  The tiller pilot repeatedly disconnected from the tiller fitting.  And a fitting at the foot of the companionway ladder pulled out.  

Also the solar shower bag, which has been out of the way in the aft part of the cockpit, was constantly underfoot.

I lashed the tiller pilot to the tiller fitting.  Re-epoxied the block beneath the tiller.  And replaced the screws in the companionway ladder fitting.  The new ones are slightly too long and I had to file off the protruding ends.

We could go into Mauritius, which is less than 400 miles away, but I don’t want to.  If my seizing wire fails soon, I probably will.  If it doesn’t, I’ll keep going.  At the moment we are making 5 knots on course for Durban, and could go faster.  I’ll set more sail after I finish my cup of cold coffee.

We passed the halfway point between Cocos and Durban last night around 0100.  I was awake when both were 1910 miles distant.

1210  Just want a quiet day, and am sort of getting it.  Set more jib before 0800, and am sailing at 6 to 7 knots.  Mackerel sky, which can mean a change coming; also some low clouds and sunshine.

Looked through various drawers and bins and found a piece of thin metal, almost foil, from which I might be able to fashion a retaining clip for the Monitor if the seizing wire fails.  Also a spool of nylon seizing twine that might work.  

Problem is that the seizing wire, while of small diameter, is still thicker than the grove in the pin it is holding.  I have it partway jammed in, and have enough wire to keep replacing it if necessary.  Can see a better way to secure wire if I have to try a Mark 2 model.

Have the solar shower bag trying to heat in the sun.   If we continue to make good progress, I have enough fresh water aboard to bathe in, but may become too cool in cockpit soon anyway.   After this morning’s pre-dawn exercise I want to get the shower bag out of the cockpit.

Despite going slow for two or three hours while I fixed things, we still had a good day’s run.   Without the drama, it would have been a 160+ mile day.

Noon position:  21º 18’ South; 63º 56’ East.  Day’s run:  153 miles.
Durban:  1849 miles, bearing 254º.   

1345  Had a rather cool, both water and wind, but refreshing shower in the cockpit after lunch.  Changed into clean passage clothes that were washed and pressed in Bali.  Both clothes and I smell good--for the moment.

Then I got out the Monitor owner’s manual and parts diagram again and found the part I need is Number 55, Retainer ring ⅜” Beryllium Copper.

Thus informed, I pulled all my plastic bags of spare parts out from the bin beneath the starboard settee berth and found that I do have spare rings.  Six in fact.  I did not find them this morning in the dark because they are in a different bag than the other Monitor spares.

I furled the jib down to a scrap and switched to tiller pilot steering.  However when I examined the Monitor closely, the seizing wire seems to be securely in place, and it is quite likely that in the present sea conditions of steep 6’ to 8’ waves I would drop the retainer ring into the sea while trying to slip it into place.  So I decided to leave the jury rigged seizing wire until it fails or Durban, whichever comes first.  I’ll keep my eye on it.  If it does fail, the odds are even that it will happen at night.  Satisfying to know that I have spares if needed.  Going to celebrate with a can of Anker Beer.

1700  Has been mostly a quiet day.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA moving smoothly under partially furled jib at 6+ knots.  Probably could have carried a bit more sail, but 6 is enough today for a tired old man.  Will have trouble staying awake for the BBC Olympic coverage of the last day of the Olympics.

August 25
Indian Ocean:  Monday

0710  Although we’re only making 5 knots at present, we’re assured of our second thousand mile, six knot average week.

The wind increased to over 20 knots not long after sunset again last night, and I went on deck and furled the jib well down.  We continued to sail relatively smoothly at 6+ knots under that reduced sail until around 0500.

I went to bed at 2030 and slept well.  Waking and getting up a few times, until I got up for good at 0500 when I realized we needed more sail area.

Since then I’ve been letting out and bringing in various amounts of the jib.  Presently almost full sail.  Would let it all out except for a line of dark clouds behind us that might bring more wind.  

Barometer still high and steady, but sky cloud covered and difficult to read.

1205  Has become a nicer day than expected, with partial clearing to the south.  Sailing under full jib at about 6 knots for most of the morning

About 1030 I realized that the deck was dry, so I took a Sportaseat up and sat listening to music, while giving the engine its weekly half hour of exercise.  Waves 2’-3’.  A few slapped against the hull, but failed to come aboard.

A 6” squid was lying in the cockpit.  Flying fish just look dead, but the squid’s eye seemed to be accusing me.

I’ve put a new waypoint in the chartplotter:  OFF MAD.  It is at 27º South and 45º East and 946 miles away, with a bearing of 252º.  It is about one hundred miles off the southern tip of Madagascar.  I would like to clear the island by at least that much.

Studied the pilot chart information in Visual Passage Planner.  The wind should stay aft until the last few hundred miles, though it might go northeast instead of southeast as we leave the Tropics behind.  Don’t recall the last time I slept on the port settee berth.  The last hundred miles or so the odds are about even that we will have wind from the southwest or from the northeast.  Much prefer the latter.  

Noon position:  22º 15’ South; 61 º 33’ East.  Day’s run:  145.  Week’s run:  1053.  Durban:  1704 miles, bearing 254º.  

1645  On deck most of the afternoon.  Raised the mainsail at 1330 when boat speed consistently below 6 knots.  May be about to lower it.  Wind has increased, and the course we have to sail to keep main from blocking jib is getting near 230º.

Very pleasant on deck, listening to music, watching waves and a single sea bird.  Have seen few birds on this passage.

Left Bali one month ago today.

1800  Dinner on deck at sunset.  Mainsail still set.  Some clouds around, both high and low.  I’ll defer the decision until just before I go to sleep.

August 26
Indian Ocean:  Tuesday

0620  Worked a night shift.

Watched a movie last evening for the first time since I started listening to the BBC’s Olympic coverage--BLOOD DIAMOND.  Left the main set when I went to sleep at 2100.

At 2330 I awoke, knowing by sound and feel that we were off course, heading too much into the small waves, and we were.  I had only this afternoon seen the possibility of northeast wind in Visual Passage Planner and we had it.

Got dressed, including foul weather parka, and went on deck in misty rain, lowered and furled main, jibed jib, and adjusted the Monitor so we were again sailing around 245º instead of 200º, though boat speed down from 6 to 5 knots.

in the cabin I had to jibe sleeping bag and pillow too, and then had to deal with different rattles when heeled to port rather than starboard, the worst of which was the anchor chain.  Had to partially clear the v-berth, crawl forward, removed cover and rearrange the part that dangles down from the deck.

At 0230 woke and found us heading 300º.  Sky had cleared and wind returned southeast.  Jibed jib and bedding back.

Sometime during all this skinned my elbow.  Just noticed blood on the teak hand rail over the starboard settee berth.  Nothing serious.  Dug out the hydrogen peroxide, Polysporin, and a Band-Aid.

This morning barometer is up a millibar, and sky is clear overhead with some cloud around the horizon, including one spot that might be rain to the south.  Making about 5.4 knots.  Might set spinnaker later, but don’t know that it will add speed.

Very difficult to maintain a 6 knot average for an entire long passage.  I think I’ve only done it once, and that was in RESURGAM from Portugal to the Caribbean.  We’ll cross the Tropic of Capricorn today and leave the Tropics.  May have already left the trade winds.

Turned on the radio this morning.  Both VOA and BBC have gone from covering the Olympics to the Democratic National Convention.  This is not an improvement.  

It is my personal belief that in a two-party system, a great deal of money could be saved and noise avoided by simply throwing whatever party is in power out every eight years and let a different group of rascals in.  

1205  Has turned into a fine day.  Sky clearer than yesterday.   Mostly blue, with a few scattered white clouds.  Making 5.5 to 6.5 knots under jib alone before 12-14 knot southeast wind.  Put cover back on mainsail this morning.   Sails are weakened primarily by sunlight and chaff, and I generally keep the mainsail covered when not in use even on passages.

Have main cabin and forward deck hatches cracked open, as well as the companionway completely open.

The 20s latitudes are known as the Horse Latitudes because sailing ships were sometimes stuck here beyond the trades so long that they ran low on water and had to thrown horses and other livestock overboard.  Don’t know if these are a resumption of the trade winds after last night’s hiccough.

Noon position:  23º 15’ South; 59º 21’ East.  Day’s run:  136 miles.  
Durban:  1568 miles, bearing 255º.  

1710  We no longer have radar, which is not particularly distressing.

I went on deck at 1400 and after a few minutes decided to set the spinnaker.  I’ve said it before, but this is revolutionary.  In the past I’ve thought long and hard before setting the spinnaker.  Now with the spinnaker furling gear, I just go ahead and do it.   The sail was up and flying in few minutes. 

The wind was moderate rather than light, about 12 knots, and I was curious to see what, if any, improvement it would be over the genoa.  The answer is not clear.  The motion of the boat improved and there may have been a slight increase in speed, perhaps ⅓ to ½ knot, although without a working wind instrument I cannot be certain that the wind did not increase.  Fact is I like the small spinnaker and am glad to give the jib a rest.

After a while I went below to get some peanuts to munch on.  As I was climbing back up the companionway ladder I noticed the radar dome. which is on a gimbaled mount attached to the backstay, dangling at an odd angle.  The tube supporting it had cracked.

I installed this and know how to remove it.  The process requires removing two bolts that I can reach by standing on the top rung of the stern pulpit, something not difficult on the mooring, but somewhat more so at sea, not to mention more dangerous.

Nevertheless it had to be done.  I was well aware that to slip was to injury myself probably seriously at best, and to fall overboard and die at worst.
I didn’t do either, did remove the bolts, lowered the dome to the deck, removed it from the mount, stowed it below, removed the mount and tube from the deck, all without dropping a single part.

The dome has now joined the stuff on the v-berth.  I tried to find a way to stow the mount and tube in the cabin, but it was simply too long and awkward, and with jagged edges where the metal has cracked likely to damage something else, such as me, so it was given a burial at sea.  

This is the first boat on which I have had radar.  I have never been convinced that there is an advantage to a gimbaled radar mount, have not liked the dome swinging around up there, and almost never use the radar anyway.  There are places in the world where it would be useful, Boston and Maine among them; but since leaving Boston I seldom turn it on, and have usually used it only to determine exactly the distance to a ship or boat I have in sight.

I rather like the absence of the dome and mount.  Cockpit looks more open.  

In South Africa I’ll decide whether to get a fixed pole mount, or perhaps get rid of the radar completely.

While I was working, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA began to go faster.  When I was finished I sat on deck with a beer and enjoyed the sail.  At sunset a trade wind sky again.

We are less than a mile from the Tropic of Capricorn, which is 23º 26.4’ South.  We’re at 23º 26.157’.  Crossed it on the way from New Zealand on the night of April 30/May 1, about six thousand miles ago.  Last tropical sunset until next year in the South Atlantic.

August 27
Indian Ocean:  Wednesday

0645  Have to look at top of computer screen to know day of the week.

Easy miles, but not fast or in exactly the right direction.  Continue under spinnaker.  Making 5 to 5.5 knots on a course around 235º. 

1210  Sloppy sailing.

An increase in wind in front of a line of rain to the south of us at 0930 caused me to lower the spinnaker and set the jib, which I then jibed to port, where we are able to sail 5º-10º high of our desired course, rather than 25º below it.

Clouds and rain still to the south.  So far only a few drops have reached us.

Making about 5 knots, but rolling with the waves still coming from previous wind direction.  For some reason I thought we’d have consistent wind until closer to Africa.

Noon position:  24º 19’ South; 57º 16’ East.  Day’s run:  131 miles.  
Durban:  1438 miles, bearing 257º.

1710  Sailing under spinnaker again.  I went on deck around 1500 and set the sail soon thereafter.  Jib was collapsing and filling too often, jerking the rig and entire boat.  There is moderate wind, but the waves are out of synch with it.  

Had my first glitch in setting the spinnaker, which was partially my fault.  The luff of this sail has a less effective method of keeping tension than does the bigger ripped spinnaker, and so often furls less well at the top than the bottom, particularly if I don’t crank maximum tension on the luff as I didn’t do this morning.  When I went to set the sail this afternoon, the sheets were snarled around the lower part of the sail, while the upper blew open prematurely.  I had to lower it back to deck, unsnarl the sheets, then raise it again.

The sail has made a bigger difference than usual, smoothing out the ride and giving us almost a full knot of speed.  With the jib boat speed often dropped below five.  With the spinnaker it is often above six, though we have averaged only five knots since noon.


I became curious this afternoon as to what the magnetic variation is here and realized that this is something once essential to navigation that I no longer pay any attention to.  

I looked for it without success in both the chartplotter and the Garmin eTrex, both of which I have set to show true courses.  I finally found it in the Visual Passage Planner software,  It is 21º East, though they show it just as -21º.  

The only place for which I know the variation by heart is San Diego, from where I made my first voyages.  

I do have three traditional compasses on board, two on deck and one in the cabin, but seldom look at them.  I check the course either as COG (course over ground) from the chartplotter GPS, or True Course from the fluxgate compass in the instrument system.

In the old days--that is more than about 15 years ago--variation, which is the difference caused by the magnetic pole not being at the geographic North Pole, and deviation, error caused by sources of magnetic interference on a boat itself, were critical.  I used to check my compasses from time to time after taking and working out a sun sight, during which process you find, among other things, the true bearing of the sun.  If it was directly ahead of or behind, I could compare the compass reading, after adjusting for variation, and know if it was accurate.


I’ve been thinking about the radar.  

The backstay mount had the advantage of being a neat and relatively unobtrusive installation.  The company that made that unit is no longer in business, and I wouldn’t buy that model again anyway,  I don’t believe that the only alternative backstay mount I know of will fit over my backstay adjuster.

While there is some fog in New Zealand, it has never effected my sailing there.  I’m not sure I can live with a pole sticking up from the stern, and I don’t want to mount it on the mast.

I sailed without radar for 30 years and 3.5 circumnavigations.  I can certainly think of places and times when it would have been useful; but none have occurred for some years.  

August 28
Indian Ocean:  Thursday

0700  Jibed last night at sunset toward a band of rain to the south of us that dissipated before we reached it as I thought it would.  

Up at 0230 to jibe to port broad reach, then at 0400 back to starboard, where we are now, more or less sailing 255º at 5 knots.  

Lovely dawn a few minutes ago.  Barometer high.  Looks to be another fine day, though probably with our smallest day’s run yet.

1215  Rolling severely.  Sunny trade wind sky, but wind is very light from the northeast.  2’ waves are collapsing and filling the spinnaker.  Boat speed only 3.5 to 4 knots.   Hatches are open.  I type a few words then have to grab computer with one and the the teak molding beside the settee with the other.  Have jibed back and forth several times this morning.  Presently on starboard.  Sounds as though the spinnaker is being torn apart.  Almost exploding as it collapses and fills.  But so far is holding together except for a tape along the foot that is coming loose.  Not sure that matters.  Better to leave it set for as long as I can in these conditions rather than the jib, which is much harder on the rig when it collapses and fills.

Noon position:  25º 03’ South; 55º 13’ East.  Day’s run:  120 miles.  
Durban:  1317 miles, bearing 257º.

Last three day’s runs have been 136, 131, 120 miles.  Not a desirable trend.

1720  Making 2.8 knots under spinnaker, which is fraying at the edges.

Although the barometer is down a couple of millibars we are under a classic high pressure sky:  almost completely clear, with only a few wisps of cloud, and little wind.

For part of the afternoon I had the main set.  The light wind then was from the north, but it veered northeast until the main was blanketing the spinnaker.  With preventer and vang I was able to keep the main more or less filled.

While it was up, I conducted an experiment and furled the spinnaker and unfurled the jib.  There was too little wind for the jib to fill, so back to the spinnaker, which is, as expected, clearly superior off wind in such light conditions.  The bigger spinnaker would be even better.

Just checked:  we’ve made 18 miles since noon.  Surprised it is that many.  

2000  Clear, starry night.  Milky Way streaming from horizon to horizon, directly overhead.  Light wind, but enough to keep the spinnaker filled most of the time in small seas, and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA moving at a little more than three knots.

Just watched a good movie, THE LIBERTINE, in which Johnny Depp plays the Earl of Rochester, during the reign of Charles II.  The best line, “All experiments of interest in life will come at your own expense.”

A few days ago I became dissatisfied when the boat speed dropped below six knots.  Now I am grateful for three.  Hope we keep moving during the night.

August 29
Indian Ocean:  Friday

0515  Woke about an hour ago, probably because the motion of the boat changed when we fell off to the south.  Also perhaps because I had enough sleep.  We kept moving at around three knots during the night.  The ocean has become almost flat, so very light wind mostly remained in spinnaker.  Boat no longer rolling and almost as steady as if at anchor.

That old recut experimental sail has done well.  So far only the tapes on foot and leech need replacing.  

I got up, got dressed, and got us back on course.  I think the wind has backed toward the north again and I may be able to set the main.  I didn’t  put the cover on it when I lowered it late yesterday afternoon.  Going to wait until first light before deciding.

Barometer steady.  Night sky still starry and clear except for one shadow that is a cloud.

0650  Mainsail up.  Boat speed briefly at 4 knots.  Haven’t seen that for a while.  Unfortunately back at 3.6.

The last sliver of the waning moon rose just before the sun.

1205  A few clouds on the horizon earlier and a few bigger swells gave me hope that we might get some real wind, but we haven’t.  

I lowered the spinnaker, and we are sort of sailing under main and jib.  2.8 knots at the moment.  Saw 4 a few times earlier this morning.  Sunny.  Few scattered clouds.  At least we haven’t been completely becalmed yet.

I remembered to winch maximum tension on the halyard, which is low stretch Technora, and the sail furled at top and bottom, but this was of course in light air.

When it was down I examined the frayed edges.  They are just the fraction of an inch of material outside the boarder stitching.  

Shaved, did some exercises, with the boat so level  even 70 push-ups, swept cabin sole, checked engine compartment--not enough water to pump, and bilge, from which I got less than a bucket full.  Put out solar shower bag for later.  I filled it at the galley from the larger, leaking tank.  Thought this might empty it, but hasn’t.  I’m taking my drinking water from the bottled water I bought in Bali, so only use the water from the tank to rinse cups and a few other items.  Still have smaller tank and two 5 gallon jerry cans of water, as well as about 30 1.5 liter bottles.  I use one of these a day, mostly at breakfast when I have two cups of coffee and put some on my cereal with powdered milk and trail mix and dried fruit.  Dinner usually uses two cups:  one for the freeze dried meal and another for a cup of tea.  I also have a can of tea or soft drink at lunch, and a can of beer sometime during the day, usually mid afternoon, but sometimes in the evening.  Not sure I’m going to have enough of either to last the passage.  Let him drink water.

I’ve gone through enough of my provisions to do some rearranging, moved remaining cans from a mixed case of beer and soft drink to the shelves behind the galley, and consolidated into one bag the diminished contents of three others.

Noon position:  25º20’ South; 53º 52’ East.  Day’s run:  76 miles.  
Durban:  1242 miles, 257º.

Day’s run disappointing but not unexpected.  Next milestone will be next time zone at 52º 30’ East.  By no means certain tomorrow.  Then either the end of three weeks at sea on Monday or the distance to Durban becoming less than 1000 miles.      

1845  Late sunsets stuck here on the western side of the time zone.  This one was a beauty.  I had dinner on deck while it was happening.  Pure colors, mostly gold and blue.  With at least five more knots of wind, and preferably ten more from some the east, it would have been perfect.

I had the best shower of the passage after lunch.  The water was hot--almost too hot--and with almost no wind, I was not chilled.  Put on clean clothes afterwards, and aired my pillow and sleeping bag in the cockpit.

We sailed under main and jib for most of the day, but at 1600 I set the spinnaker, then switched back and forth from jib and spinnaker a couple of times when our boat speed dropped.  So had the wind.  Ended up with the spinnaker and main until sunset, when what little wind there was veered to the northeast and the main began to blanket the spinnaker, so I lowered the main.   Might have done so anyway as I don’t think I wanted to listen to it all night.  The spinnaker is quieter.  Making 2.9 knots to the west at the moment.

August 30
Indian Ocean:  Saturday

0450  New time zone:  GMT +3.  We’re not quite there, but will be in less than two hours, so I changed ship’s time.   We started sailing around 2000 last night, as opposed to ghosting along as we have been for too long, and moved at 4 and 5 knots all night.  Since getting up I even saw a 6, briefly.  

Something--I think the spinnaker halyard-- is groaning.  I don’t see anything wrong by headlamp, but will investigate further with daylight.  The sky is just beginning to lighten to the east.

0645 We are sailing at 6 to 7 knots under main and genoa.  Excellent.

With sufficient daylight, I went on deck and discovered that the sound was coming from where the spinnaker halyard enters the mast  a few feet above the deck.  The mast fitting is chaffing my new and expensive halyard.  Another thing added to my ‘to do’ list, which now extends well down a second page.  8,000 miles at sea in four months will do that.

With the wind from the north and on the beam it was time to lower the spinnaker anyway.  With extra tension winched onto the halyard it again furled properly.

I had the jib set quickly, which kept our boat speed above five knots, and then raised the main, which has brought it above six.  Several days ago I cured the problem of the boom vang noise by tying a piece of cord as a washer around the pin connecting it to the base of the mast and on which it was rising and falling with a loud and irritating clank.

North wind is to be expected in this hemisphere on the trailing edge of a high, but so far the barometer has remained steady.  Very glad to be seeing 6 knots on the instruments, and hearing the swoosh of water moving past the hull.

0915  Glorious morning.  Beam reaching at 6 to 7 knots, occasionally 7+.  Wind 14 knots.  Blue seas 3’.  Sunny, with some scattered clouds.

I just finished an excellent biography of Sir Walter Raleigh, THE SHEPHERD OF THE OCEAN, which I read when it was first published more than thirty years ago.  Curiously I did not remember the authors’ names--Adamson and Follard--but I did recall that they were professors at the University of Utah.  This is, of course, not the same copy.  I have since then twice lost everything I owned in the world.  I bought this one used via Amazon.  It saddens me to see that it, as many of the books I buy that way, once belonged to a library--in this case the Howard County Library in Maryland--because I know it is happening to my books too.

Going to put on some sun screen and sit on deck and enjoy the sail.

1205  Wind seems to be decreased slightly, but we are still making 6.5 knots right on course.  Perfect sailing.  I’d gladly carry this wind all the way to Durban, but if the ocean teaches anything, it is that nothing, good or bad, lasts.

Noon position:  25º 57’ South; 51º 55’ East.  Day’s run:  112 miles (25 hours).  Durban:  1130 miles, bearing 258º.

1630  Tired today.  Long day waking early and then setting clock back.  Going to fix dinner soon.

The wind has weakened slightly.  We’re still moving well enough, but more often between 5 and 6 knots rather than 6 and 7.  This morning when I went to sit on deck, I didn’t have to touch a thing.  I already had us in the groove.  Now the groove is gone.   A sky that looks something like a trade wind sky, but isn’t, though wind may have veered a bit from north toward NNE.   Felt hotter midday than the past few days, but probably because I no longer have all the hatches open.   Some spray coming over bow, but we haven’t taken a wave aboard yet.

August 31
Indian Ocean:  Sunday

0715  I went to sleep last night at 1930 hours and got up this morning at 0600 well rested, even though I didn’t spend all of that time in my berth.

The wind increased all night long, and has only began to ease in the past hour.  The full main and jib were up when I first retired, only a scrap of the jib this morning.  I was on deck four times.  While the waves were not high, they felt solid and put heavy water over the deck, drenching me once.  

A little while ago I put on foul weather gear before going out to cover the mainsail and let out a little more jib.

The barometer is down three millibars, but still in the normal range.  That may just be coming down from the high.  The sky is hazy, with a few scattered clouds, but mostly clear.

The closest point of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo, is a little less than 200 miles to the northeast.  Two things about list of biggest islands in my atlas surprised me:  three of them are in Canada’s far north; and the United Kingdom is number eight.  I didn’t realize it was that big.  In about two hours, Durban will be less than 1000 miles away.

I have always expected the last thousand miles to be the hardest.

1210  The wind has steadily diminished and veered toward the northeast this morning, and I have steadily let out more jib whenever our boat speed dropped below the magic ‘6’.  Now about ¾ out.  Hazy blue sky.  

Rather than take the time to put on foul weather gear, I’ve darted out and back so far without taking another salt water shower.  Fool’s game really, for a wave will get me sooner or later.

When I checked the chartplotter at 0930, Durban was less than 1000 miles.   The OFF MAD waypoint is no longer relevant.  We’re nine miles from being that far south already.  I have put in a waypoint for Richards Bay, which is a little closer than Durban and a hundred miles farther north, just in case we are forced that way.  I’ve never been there and wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think it has a sailmaker, rigger, or a boat yard where I can haul and anti-foul.

We had our first 6 knot day this week.

Noon position:  26º 51’ South; 49º 25’ East.  Day’s run:  145.
Durban:  985 miles, bearing 259º.   

1730  At least the wind increased today just before dark rather than after.

I continued to let out more jib, until only two rolls were left,  We probably could have carried the full sail, but were moving comfortably at 6 to 7 knots.  However, a half hour ago we started doing 8 and spinning off waves faster than the Monitor could handle, so I winched in about half the sail and when that wasn’t enough brought in more.  A little more than storm jib size is left, and we’re still making six knots.

Red glow coming through ports from setting sun.  

September 1
Indian Ocean:  Monday

0820  A miserable night. 

Although the waves didn’t seem that high, several pounded us, and one put a lot of water in the cockpit, which poured in through the edges of the inserts in the companionway.  I had to put sheets of plastic over the foot and head of my berth to keep the drips from around the mast, the small hatch beside it to port, and the companionway, from falling on me.

I was on deck a couple of times, reducing the jib until only a few square feet were exposed; then this morning, when the wind decreased for a while, adding a bit.

The barometer has continued to fall, but is still in the normal range and not yet low.  The ocean is starting to look gale driven.  I don’t think we have gale force winds at the moment--probably in the high 20s--but likely did for several hours last night.  Seas are 8’ to 10’ and steep.  Wind is still north and so we are taking them uncomfortably on the beam, even though I am letting us sail a bit low of the course for Durban.  Hazy sunshine.  This could just be wind funneled south and strengthened by Madagascar, which is about 150 miles north, though the pilot charts don’t show a significant increase.

Pumped a couple of buckets from the bilge and one from the engine compartment.  Clothes that were on the upper starboard shelf were thrown across  the main cabin to the upper port berth.  Everything heavy is secure.   Or so I think.

Everything is very difficult to do, including using this computer.  Normally I leave it out during the day, but not today.  Back in its sleeve and back in one of the two dry lockers. 

1210  Put on foul weather gear and new sea boots to go on deck this morning.  My old ones had cracked.  I always had to put on socks in order to get them on and off.  The new ones have a smooth lining and don’t require socks.  A definite advantage.

The ocean was in gale state--long trains of white-capped and toppling 10’ waves.  I reduced the jib back to the minimum, and tidied up some lines that had been washed around by waves.

Mid-morning I secured myself on the settee berth with the lee cloth, put a hat on to protect my head from occasional drips from the hatch overhead, and took a nap.

In the past hour conditions have slightly moderated.  Wind now, I think, in high 20s again.  We are still being forced south of the course to Durban.  I’ll let that go on today, and hope for a change in wind tomorrow.  If not, eventually I’ll have to set the deeply reefed main as well as the scrap of jib to bring us on course.  That will mean the wind forward of the beam, a rougher ride, harder on the boat and wetter for me.  

We’re no longer making a 6 knot passage, and I’d be glad to be in and have the comforts of shore and Carol.   

I gave up speed for safety last night and am doing so today.  We’re not in survival mode, but in ‘avoid damage if possible’ mode.

Noon position:  27º 37’ South; 46º 57’ East.  Day’s run:  140 miles.
Week’s run:  857 miles.  Durban:  846 miles, bearing 261º.   

1640  I am tired and could use an easy night, but it does not appear that I’m going to have one.  An hour ago the wind backed to the west, heading us.  I let us sail off toward the south for a while to be certain the change would last, then donned foul weather gear and went on deck where I raised the triple reefed mainsail, furled the jib down to minimum, and turned us toward the wind.  We are presently making 5.5 to 6 knots on a course around 235º to 240º.  Because the waves have yet to follow the wind and are still from the north, we’re moving relatively smoothly, heeled over 20º and not yet taking much water on deck.  Sky has become completely overcast and is ominously dark ahead. 

1840  I might have an easy night after all, though not a productive one.  We are making 4 knots under bare poles heading 030º.  Without a wind instrument, I don’t know exactly how much wind is out there, but whatever it is--I would guess at least 50 knots, we can’t sail against it.  And whatever it is, it is less than it was when it hit an hour ago and laid us over on our side.

I got into foul weather gear, got on deck, and completely furled the jib.  Then lowered the main.  The wind was almost over-powering.  The ocean was white with spray and foam.  Several times I had to stop what I was doing and hold on with both hands to avoid being blown overboard.

I turned us off downwind, came below, ate a cold dinner of one of the French cans, this one salmon and vegetables.  Inside the cabin, I can hear the wind howling, but the boat itself is fairly stable and quiet.  No waves coming aboard.

It is quite different on deck.  When I realized that the wind was not quite as strong as it was, I decided to try to see if we could sail some useful direction and went back on deck, where I raised the main.  Once it was up I knew there was no point and lowered it.   So here I am, losing distance by the minute.  Time for a cup of tea.

September 2
Indian Ocean:  Tuesday

0645  Nice to see the sun coming up behind us instead of ahead as it seemed for several hours last night it would.

I went to sleep early with us bleeding away four miles an hour being blown ahead of the wind.  The cabin was quiet and comfortable.  At 2200 I woke and felt a difference in motion.  We were rolling more and not being held by the wind.  I thought we might be able to sail again.  The lack of wind instruments is most significant when there is a major change in wind during a moonless night.

I put on my foul weather gear--and it appears that my foul weather pants no longer are waterproof--went on deck and raised the still triple reefed main and set a scrap of jib.  The wind was coming from the southwest, and we were able to sail to the northwest, which while not on course, is better than being blown in the wrong direction.

Back in the cabin I checked the barometer, which had risen a phenomenal 4 millibars in four hours.  Whatever we experienced was small and fierce.

The wind continued to back during the night, until now we are sailing toward Durban on a very close reach at around 5 knots.  I increased the size of the jib slightly this morning.  Also pumped bilge.  Heeled over water was sloshing over cabin sole.

Sky clear.  Barometer up another 2 millibars.   Hopefully wind will continue to back and enable me to ease the sheets. 
1245  The sailing and the day have been better than I could have hoped late yesterday.

The wind has continued to back and moderate, and I continued to unfurl the jib.  Finally a few minutes ago, I removed the reef from the main, so we are now making 6 knots in the right direction under full main and most of the jib.  The waves are spaced far enough apart so we can sail up and down them, without usually pounding.  Sunny. Barometer continues to rise.  Now eight millibars higher than when the wind struck yesterday.

Noon position:  27º 36’ South; 45º 26’ East.  Day’s run:  81 miles, which is poor, but much better than having lost that much.

Durban:  768 miles, bearing 260º.

1710  Sloppy sailing with confused sea, big swell from southwest and southeast, causing boat to lurch and the Monitor to have difficulty keeping us near the course of 260º.  I’ve had to make adjustments to sail trim and Monitor repeatedly during the afternoon and doubt it will settle down after dark.  I fell asleep sitting up this afternoon.  Working too hard on the night shift.  Sunny.  Barometer high and steady.  Cooler today.  High temperature 68ºF/ 20ºC.  

September 3
Indian Ocean:  Wednesday

0800  Jibed jib and sleeping bag three times last night.  

Wind continued to back until it has settled for a while in the northeast.  

I lowered the mainsail, which began to blanket the jib, not long after sunset, and later partially furled the jib to slow our yawing back and forth, which was sometimes collapsing and refilling the jib with an horrendous crash.

Up at 0530.  Have breakfasted and shaved and cleaned galley.  

Wind is moderate, about 14 knots.  Seas still confused, with swell from the southwest meeting waves from the northeast, but less so than yesterday.  Or perhaps the wind is just steadier.  Sunny with widely scattered low white clouds.  Boat speed varies from below 4 to over 6 knots, probably averaging around 5, and generally in the right direction.

1200  High clouds thickening behind us; barometer down a millibar.  Wind north.  We seem to be sailing a knot faster than our SOG, which is usually between 4 and 4.9 knots, so I presume an adverse current. 

We’re on a beam reach again, with most of the jib set.  The waves are much smaller than they were on a similar point of sail a few days ago, but the odd one is coming aboard.  One did a few minutes ago.  Just as I went to look out the companionway a wall of water passed a few inches in front of my eyes.

The north wind is warmer than the south in these waters,  Temperature back in the 70s and I’m back in shorts.

I have seen very few birds on this passage.  What might be an albatross has been around this morning.  A big bird, but only medium size for an albatross, if that is what it is.

Noon position:  28º 03’ South; 43º 20’ East.  Day’s run:  115.
Durban:  653 miles, bearing 260º.     

1840  Most of the afternoon was pleasant.

When our SOG dropped below four knots at 1300, I set the mainsail, which only brought it up to 4.5 for a while, even though it felt as though we were sailing 6 and 7.   An hour later, after no apparent change, suddenly our SOG was 6 knots.  Obviously we had escaped  from an adverse current.

Two hours of fine sailing followed, and I sat on deck and enjoyed it.  This ended at 1630 when the wind died and we began to be tossed around extravagantly by the leftover waves and swells.  I did not run the engine on Monday, as I try to do once each week during a passage, because it was too rough, so I turned it on both to run it routinely and to provide some motion through the swells.   I brought the tiller pilot on deck to steer.  After a half hour, whenever I thought there might be some wind, I cut the engine back.  Until 1800 I was wrong, but finally there was enough wind to sail.  I cut the engine, unfurled the jib--I had left the main up while powering--and switched from tiller pilot to Monitor steering.  

Unfortunately the wind is from dead ahead, and so light that with these confused seas, we can’t steer within 60º of Durban.  We are presently on port tack heading northwest.  I’m guessing the wind is going to continue to back.  Don’t think it is going to be a restful night.

September 4
Indian Ocean:  Thursday

0635  I guessed right.  The wind did continue to back.  But it was in fact a restful night until 0400.

When I compared the readings from the GPS to those of the instrument system, I understood why I couldn’t get the boat to steer anywhere near the desired course.   Our bow was pointing west, but our course over the ground was northwest, a 45º difference, and the instrument system was showing a boat speed of 4 knots, and our true SOG was 5.5.  Obviously a strong current that lasted until 0200.

We sailed smoothly and quietly in light wind that finally backed further at 0200 and, while there was still a big difference between our compass course and the COG, at least the latter was moving closer to what I wanted.

At 0400 the wind increased, heeling us over further, and causing me to put on foul weather gear and go on deck, put a reef in the main, furl more of the jib, and move the Monitor tiller control chain two links to windward to give it more leverage.  

The wind is now almost from the south, so I’ve been able to free the sheets and we are almost on a beam reach, making 7 knots on course for Durban.  Ahead the sky looks stormy, but the barometer has gone up a millibar over night.  While the boat is moving easily at present, I may go on deck again and put another reef in the main before it becomes more difficult; or the wind may have backed enough to lower it completely and sail under jib alone.

1205  Instead of reducing sail I have been able to increase it.  The reef is still in the main, though it probably could come out, and I’ve twice added to the jib, as the day has become sunny, with scattered white clouds, and the wind has backed a bit further.   We got a break that it was no longer heading us when it strengthened at 0400.   

We are making 6 knots smoothly on a beam reach on course, and while our day’s run wasn’t good, it was better than I expected after being carried off to the northwest most of the night.  For the first time we are slightly further north at noon today than we were yesterday.

Took a brief nap this morning.

Noon position:  27º 57’ South; 41º 11’ East.  Day’s run:  115.  
Durban:  544  miles, bearing 258º.   

Distance to Durban should fall below 500 miles tonight.  Then passing 40º East.  Then entering the South Africa time zone at 37º 30’.

We can be slowed by too much wind, no wind, and head wind, all of which we’ve experienced these past few days, so I don’t know when we’ll reach Durban.  No wind has held strength and direction for more than six or eight hours since Monday afternoon’s storm.  From the beginning it figured to be the second week in September, and it still does.   Can’t yet predict which day.

1730  The main came down not because the wind was too strong, but because it began to blanket the jib as the wind continued to back.  We continue making around 5.5 knots under jib alone.

I sat on deck for a while this afternoon, wearing Levis and Polartec with the south wind, despite sunshine.  Very confused seas, with big swells and waves from seemingly all directions.  Looks pleasant enough as sunset nears.  Wonder what tonight will bring.

September 5
Indian Ocean:  Friday

0645  The wind continues dancing its mad circles.  It is like an unruly child who can’t sit still.  

Last night I woke at 2330.  The boat felt and sounded as though it were moving as it had been, but I got up and found that we were 40º off course to the south.  

I dressed and went on deck--it was 65ºF--and jibed the jib, then back in the cabin moved my bedding.  However the wind was too light to keep the jib filled against the remaining waves and I didn’t get back to sleep for three hours,

Dawn finds a few low clouds and the wind in the north.

Durban is less than 500 miles away and we passed 40º East.

1215  When I lowered the mainsail yesterday, I left the reef tied in and did not put on the cover because I expected that I would set it again today.  I did at around 0800, and we sailed on a beam reach with it and partially furled jib until just before lunch when I went on deck and tied in the higher reef.  The wind isn’t more than 20 knots  from the north and the day still sunny, but the Monitor was being over powered.  We are now sailing more smoothly at around 6 knots.

Just finished the last of the Laughing Cow cheese.  Lunch will now be tuna or salmon with crackers or one of the French canned meals.  The couscous would be good for lunch.  I could also eat one of the cups of noodles.  

Boat moving well.  Good sailing.  Waves only 3’.  

Last night when I was on deck around midnight, I was paging through the instrument system and when I passed the wind page, to my surprise the readings were there.  Wind was 14 knots apparent.  Not working today.

Noon position:  28º 39’ South; 39º 06’ East.  Day’s run:  119 miles.
Durban:  426 miles, bearing 260º.      

1615  Cloudless but hazy blue sky.  Wind continues at 20-25 knots from the north.  Seas not too rough yet.  We continue on beam reach under scrap of jib and fully reefed main averaging 6 knots since noon without taking too much water on board, though we are taking some.  Going to have to put on hat.  I’m sitting beneath the small hatch over the port settee and drips just started falling on my head.  This is an old hatch that I had not replaced because it never leaked.  It’s time has come.  Barometer down considerably.  That is troubling.  

Shaved and had cat bath this afternoon.  Pumped less than a bucket full from engine compartment and bilge combined.  Swept cabin sole.  Finished reading THE BARURNAMA, the journal of Babar, founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, an interesting combination of writing poetry and designing gardens and having men skinned alive and towers of skulls built after battles.  Took a brief nap.

Durban is 400 miles away just about now.

1810  Finished dinner of freeze dried “Beef and Pasta Hotpot”.  Not one of my favorites.

Before preparing this feast, I put on my foul weather gear and went on deck to change the Monitor vane from the light air plastic model, which the manufacturer recommends for most use, to a standard plywood vane.  It is what I used to routinely use, but looks so small in comparison.  The only other time I’ve switched from the light air vane was in last Monday’s storm.  The light air vane is still fine for present conditions, but I’d rather make the switch now when it is relatively easy.

Also retied a vibrating messenger line that is holding the place of a spare main halyard, and while I was at the mast, checked out the amount of jib I have set.  I didn’t think it is very much and it isn’t.  

Waves are hitting a bit harder, which is to be expected the longer this wind  blows.  The deck is completely wet, but none struck while I was out.

A rather sinister sunset:  just a faded orange disc sinking sullenly in dismal haze.

September 6
Indian Ocean:  Saturday

0630  I am not fond of these nights.

At sunset yesterday the wind resumed backing.  When I went to bed at 2100 we were still holding our course, but were close hauled on starboard.

At 2330 I woke to find us heading south.  Dressed in foul weather gear and on deck to tack in strong wind.  Then below to tack bedding, which included the plastic hoods over foot and head of bunk.  
The sliver of young moon set while I was on deck.  The seas were not big.  I don’t know how strong the wind was, probably 25 to 30 knots.  Maybe more.

We started leaping off waves, landing with a destructive jolting crash, so I eased off.  Our course for the rest of the night was northwest.  I didn’t think I slept much, but I remember a conversation about a camera lens that must have been in a dream.

When  I got up this morning I found us in the new time zone, GMT +2 hours, so today will be a 25 hour day.  Last night seemed like a 48 hour night.

After pumping the bilge to stop water slopping over the cabin sole, I experimented with the Monitor, whose control lines I run to a cleat just outside the companionway so I can adjust it without going on deck, and found that I could bring us a little closer to the wind without pounding too much.  Our course is mostly around 285º, but varies from 300º to 270º.  Our speed varies from 5.5 knots to 7.4, but is mostly between 6.5 and 7.  When the wind gusts the speed goes up and we sail higher.  Also pound more.

The sky is hazy and partially clear.  The barometer has gone up 4 millibars since yesterday afternoon.  

I could sail higher, but don’t want to push the boat too hard.  I am hoping that the wind will continue to back and complete its third complete circle this week and eventually let us free sheets and sail for Durban.    

1205  Wind decreased a half hour ago.  Boat speed down to 4 knots and our course has fallen off again toward 290º.   Often a decrease will presage a shift in direction.  The wind did continue to back during the morning so that I was seeing COG’s mostly in the 270ºs and occasionally down to to 264º.  Need at least 30º more to ease our way.

Had to bail bilge a second time this morning.  Sky mostly overcast.  Barometer up another millibar.  Waves 8’ to 10’.

Noon position:  28º 08’ South; 36º 50’ East.  Day’s run:  124  (25 hour day)  Durban:  320 miles, bearing 251º.      

1800  Sun has already set.  I saw a sliver of it through the clouds, as I saw a sliver through clouds when it rose this morning.   Considerable difference in conditions though.

The wind did weakened and back to the southwest this afternoon.   I let out more jib at intervals to help us power through the leftover waves, and then just before sunset let out the second reef in the mainsail.  We could carry full sail at the moment, but in such unsettled conditions I’m not going to do that at nightfall.  Our course is varying from 254º to 288º and our boat speed is only 3.6 knots.  I hope the wind will continue to back to the south and fill a bit during the night.  But I hoped not to have a gale, particularly from ahead.  14 to 1 odds in my favor if I remember the pilot chart information correctly, and I lost. 

September 7 
Indian Ocean:  Sunday

0545  Becalmed since before midnight.  Under power.  

When I went to bed at 2030 we were making 4 knots on a course of around 270º.  At 2200 that had improved to 255º.  But at 2330 I found us heading 049º  at 2 knots, and when I went on deck found the sails backed.  I disengaged the Monitor and turned the boat back west and tried to get us on course.  I took out the reef in the main and completely unfurled the jib to no avail.  So I lowered the main and furled the jib, tied the tiller amidships and let us drift.

However when I went below the left over waves, which had fallen dramatically from 10’ to 1’ in a few hours, were still rolling the cabin around, so I set up the tiller pilot and turned on the engine.  Besides the idea of losing 2 miles an hour was galling.

I woke a few times, but found no wind and got some good sleep for the first time in a while.  At first light a half hour ago the sea was glassy.  However now there are a few cats-paws.  Not enough to sail, but I raised the main to add a fraction of knot to our SOG.  Sunny.  Clear sky.  But barometer dropping.

The fuel tank was full when I left Bali.  That’s 18 or 20 gallons.  I only used the engine the first two or three hours out of Bali and into Cocos, and an hour when leaving, another hour or so routinely on this passage.  Can’t power all the way to Durban.  Hope for useful wind soon.  

0845  Under sail as of a few minutes ago.  Making 3.7 knots in right direction.  Tiller pilot steering.  Wind very light from NNW.  Left over swell from ahead.  Sails trimmed loosely for a close reach.

Saw a ship on horizon, heading east.  Richards Bay was and probably still is South Africa’s busiest port based on tonnage.  I think they ship coal from there.

Speed just reached 5 knots.  Now 4.7.  Was about what we were making under power.  

There was a time no so long ago that I thought I might be in today or tomorrow.  Now maybe Wednesday.  Tuesday only if I get perfect wind.

Everything from pumping the bilge--three buckets full--to brushing my teeth--something that didn‘t get done yesterday until evening--is so much easier with the boat level and relatively stable.  I took advantage while being under power this morning to shave, have a cat bath, and clean up the cabin.

Going slower.  Back to 3.5 knots.

Sunny and cloudless day.  Seems like high pressure, but isn’t.  

1205  Continued lovely day.  Wind is filling from north.  We’re making 5-6 knots on almost a beam reach, though I have sails trimmed a bit tight because they lose wind to swells, which are coming gently from three different directions.

Nice to have an easy day.  At least so far.  The contrast with yesterday is enormous.

Noon:  28º 15’ South; 35º 23’ East.  Day’s run:  77 miles (about half under power).  Durban:  245 miles, bearing 247º.

Two five knot days would see us in Durban.  At moment speed 4.4.  Be nice to get in without any more severe weather.  Barometer down another millibar.

1720  It has been a day of good sailing.  We’ve averaged 6 knots since noon, but increasing clouds and a falling barometer.  I lowered the main an hour ago because it was beginning to blanket the jib.  Also put the spray cover back on the engine cockpit panel.  When I turned off the engine this morning I decided to leave the cover off for the remainder of the passage, but have reconsidered.  Still smooth effortless sailing.  Wind only about 14 knots from the north, which is the direction it would be on the leading edge of a low in this hemisphere, changing to west if the low is south of us, and east if north.  I really wanted to get in without any more drama.    

September 8
Indian Ocean:  Monday

0610  Toward the end of passages I measure time as how many more nights rather than days, and unless the wind backs and heads us--a definite possibility--we have only one more night.  Durban is 138 miles away.  At 6 knots we’d be there; at 5 knots we’d be 18 miles away.  I have us moving under reduced jib at 5+ knots on a course a bit higher than the rhumb line because of the Agulhas Current that flows southwest parallel to the coast at roughly 3 knots.  It is strongest on the 200 fathom curve, which is about ten miles offshore at Durban.

Last night was a good one.  I fell asleep early, and got up twice to reduce the jib when we started going more than 7 knots.  The wind has remained in the north.  Partially cloudy.  Barometer down another 2 millibars.  And a wave just crashed aboard.  Not many have been.

Happy enough with present conditions, but the barometer worries me.

0700  We are 65 miles west of Richards Bay and already picking up a knot of current.

Low clouds.  Nothing threatening.  This is one time I could use a good weather forecast, but haven’t been able to get a Durban station on the radio, at least not in English.

Although I have plenty of fresh water--still using the leaking bigger tank--found myself automatically using salt water to rinse the plastic measuring cup from which I eat my home made muesli for breakfast. 

1000  So far, so good.  Conditions unchanged.  Hazy blue sky.  Wind in the north.  We’re making our way almost soundlessly at 6+ knots, except that once an hour or so a wave crashes on board.  Waves only about 5’.  

Dug out my South African paper charts and flag, left from when I was in Cape Town six years ago.  

1215  Conditions same, but our speed has been as high as 7.8 knots.  I may have to enter Durban Harbor during the night or be swept past by the current.  At our present speed we will be there around 0200 or 0300.  It is a big commercial harbor and no problem to get into, but finding the International Jetty and getting tied up might be.

Noon position:  29º 04’ South; 32º 46’ East.  Day’s run:  146 (a significant amount due to current).  Durban:  101 miles, bearing 242º.

The coast falls off to the southwest and we are only 36 miles offshore.

1630  No change--wind from north; sky hazy blue--except the barometer has fallen two more millibars and is now unquestionably low.  

At 1300 I reduced the amount of the jib to reduce our speed to around five knots.  An hour ago it got back to six, so I conclude we are getting more current, and reduced it again.  Not much left to furl.   I really don’t want to enter the harbor before dawn if I can avoid doing so.  Just hope it doesn't start blowing a gale or on the nose.

1710  Reduced jib again.  Only a couple of square feet of the clew set.  Effectively we’re under bare poles and sometimes still making 6 knots.

On a national program on South Africa FM radio, the high temperature for Durban tomorrow is 28ºC/82ºF and the province of KwaZulu Natal will be “fine and hot.” 

September 9
Indian Ocean:  Tuesday

0540  Powering toward Durban which is 18 miles away.  

I went to bed around 2030, doubting that I would easily get to sleep because I was troubled by the low barometer and that our SOG had increased to 7 knots.  However I was tired enough to sleep anyway.

When I woke at 2200 the world had changed.  The wind had become light and with almost no sail set, we were making 2.6 knots, so I increased the jib until our SOG was 4 and went happily back to sleep.

Two hours later the wind had further weakened so I let out the full jib, which again brought our speed up to 4.

At 0400 the wind had become a land breeze and was heading us, and I shifted from sail to engine and Monitor to tiller pilot.  The lights of a ship were visible a few miles south of us heading east.

We are being slowed by a slight chop to 4 knots, though I have the engine at RPM’s that should give us 6 in smooth water.   The prop had only some fuzz on it in Cocos, but might have become more fouled during the passage.

I heard on the news that wild fires have been burning near Durban, and last night when I went on deck I could smell them.  It was like being back in Darwin again.

Sky is lightening, but not yet dawn.  Low coastal clouds.  No sight of land ahead.

0800  9.5 miles off and still no sight of land.   The haze I saw yesterday may in part have been smoke.  It is brownish to the west, although I no longer smell smoke.

What I took to be buildings ashore a while ago have proven to be the deckhouses of ships.  There are at least seven in sight, waiting to get into the harbor.  One, a car carrier, crossed close enough in front of us that I took the opportunity to slow to an idle and put the anchor back on the bow.  I don’t expect to anchor.  This is just a routine precaution in case I have to in an emergency.

I also moved the solar panels from the deck and re-flaked the mainsail on the boom.   I haven’t put on the cover, just in case I unexpectedly need to sail.  Raised the “Q” flag.

Still have dock lines and fenders to arrange.

Sunny, hazy/smokey?, warm.  SOG up to 5 knots, so less than two hours.  Wind very light--less than 5 knots--from ahead.

Have to go and check on ships.

1400  In a slip in Durban Marina, waiting for Immigration.  Had a shower.  Emailed Carol from the Point Yacht Club bar.  Can’t go any further until Immigration appears.  Would like to get South African rand and some fresh food and drink.  Just lunched on one of the French cans and my last beer.

I couldn’t have asked for an easier or more pleasant landfall.  

The headwind was never more than five knots and decreased as I neared shore.  There is an armada of ships waiting to get in.  Most are anchored.  I counted fourteen.  There may have been more.

Yesterday I finished reading a book about whaling, and this morning a whale spouted only a few hundred yards in front of me.  He or she was wending his or her way leisurely through the ships.

I contacted Durban Port Control on my handheld VHF when I was 5 miles out.  They told me to re-contact them when I was closer.  So I did when a mile out.  They said a ship was about to enter the harbor and I should wait.  A big container ship was near me.  It’s captain came on the radio and said I could follow him in.  Port Control concurred.  So I did.  

I was met in the channel by a small boat which transferred a young man to direct me to the International Jetty and handle my dock lines.   Nice service.

Durban Marina is in the heart of the city.  As with every other place I last visited twenty years ago, the harbor and Durban are dramatically changed.  The International Jetty is in about the same place, but is no longer a jetty.

When I walked up to the marina office, they called Immigration for me and told me to move to my present slip.  

There are city noises--traffic and machinery--as were always in the background when we lived aboard at Constitution Marina in Boston, but the boat itself is unnaturally quiet.   

Passage over.