Voyage of Traveler / Blog

November 30, 2009

Nov 30 Position Report and Poem

Traveler’s Nov 30 position report:

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 30
20-23N, 036-33W
177 nm (Our best daily run so far and a 7.3 knot average)
1385 MTG = Half Way!

All’s well on Traveler.  How well is it, you ask?
There’s time to write poetry, if you write fast.
The ARC with their fenders on Day One, what a show.
Now it’s Day Nine, with another nine to go.

Here we are in the middle of the Ocean Atlantic,
With such wind and waves, others would be frantic.
But life aboard Traveler is routine for the crew.
Fair winds, following seas and an incredible view.

From the Canaries to Barbados in the Caribbean,
It’s a long rolly sail on a down wind run.
We’re all longing for some rum in the sun,
Mount Gay Factory Tour, look out, here we come!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with hot roasted turkey,
cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
With champagne we toasted and gave thanks a lot
to the captain for getting a good autopilot.

Yansen caught a mahi and likes his wasabi and soy,
Larry crosses off a Bucket List item, what joy!
Brian wants to meet a young girl in the Caribbean,
And Michael looks forward to Barbara flying in.

The weather is fine, you might even say hot,
Eating well and getting good sleep–not!
O’er thirteen hundred miles behind us we’ve logged,
Same number ahead means the Half Way Party and grog!

Living the Dream,
Crossing the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

November 29, 2009

Position Report, Day Eight

Traveler’s Nov 29 position report:

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 29
21-17N, 033-31W
161.5 nm (6.7 knot average)
1566 MTG

All’s well on Traveler.

In case you are wondering, we have developed a watch schedule that works well for us.

Initially and for the first three days of this passage across the Atlantic (which is expected to take 18 days), we had the traditional four hours on, and four hours off, with Brian as my watch mate and Larry and Yansen together, with Larry being the other watch captain. Every four hours around the clock, two of us would go off watch and try to get some sleep while the other two went to work.

Larry, age 63, owns a Valiant 37 and is a veteran sailor with many ocean crossings under his belt, including our 2350-mile passage from Kona, Hawaii to Papeete, Tahiti on Traveler.

Brian, age 21, is by now very familiar with the boat and done several short passages and a couple of long passages on Traveler, but never before alone under sail, where he was the only person on watch. When we were motoring, sometimes I would give him a watch by himself, first during the day and then gradually working into some night watches, and he did well. Sailing at night in 20 to 25 knots of wind and on watch by yourself is a lot more challenging.

Yansen, age 28, has grown up in Indonesia on one boat or another, but always a power boat, and his experience at sea on a sailboat is limited to that time with Barbara and me when the three of us sailed from Bali to Singapore. But that was nearly a year ago.

A four hour watch schedule starts to wear you down, especially when the conditions are rough making it difficult to get to sleep. Before you know it, it’s your watch. Again.

So once Larry and I felt that Brian and Yansen could safely handle a watch by themselves, including at night and while sailing downwind in 20 to 25 knots, we changed things around a little.

The watch schedule now is Larry, then Brian, then Yansen each take a three hour watch by themselves, and after their watch they get six hours off. This gives them enough time to get some good sleep (that is a relative term, obviously.) As captain, I have many responsibilities, including the navigating, radio communications, sending and receiving emails, getting the weather reports, checking the sail trim and making adjustments, and making all the meals. I get maybe six or seven hours of sleep, and take it whenever I need it, in any 24 hour period. But during that time if the person on watch needs another pair of hands and the others are asleep, I am called up on deck. When the others are off watch but up and about, time is spent reading, eating, helping out with some boat chore or another, or sitting in the cockpit keeping company with the person on watch and just enjoying the ride–and what an incredible ride it is. We call this the “One Man + Captain, Three On and Six Off Watch Schedule.” So far, so good. And the crew likes this schedule much more. Team Traveler.

Living the Dream,
Crossing the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

November 28, 2009

Position Report, Day Seven

Traveler’s Nov 28 Position Report

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 28
21-52N, 030-42W
175nm–our best so far! (7.3 knots average)
1729 MTG

All’s well on Traveler.

Here’s a little nautical world history test question for you.

Who was the first European explorer to circumnavigate the world?

A. Vasco de Gama
B. James Cook
C. Ferdinand Magellan
D. Juan Sebastian de Elcano

Vasco de Gama of Portugal never made it around the world.  But he was the first European to sail from Europe to India (which took him ten months) by rounding the southerly tip of Africa, and then back to Portugal (which took another 13 months) in 1497-99.  This opened the shipping trade route for spices from the east after the Turks cut off the overland supply route through Constantinople (Istanbul.)  Similar to the frenzy of the Space Race between the Americans and the Soviets in the 1960s, news of de Gama’s voyage quickly spread across Europe and greatly fueled the race to discover the world, primarily between Portugal and Spain, with the British, French and Dutch close behind.

James Cook’s first circumnavigation, on the ‘Endeavor,’ was from 1768-71.  The first British explorer to successfully sail around the world was Sir Frances Drake, 190 years before Cook, in 1577-80.  Drake was the second person to circumnavigate the globe.

Ferdinand Magellan is credited with the first circumnavigation, but he did not make it all the way around the world.  Although Magellan was a Portuguese aristocrat, it was King Charles of Spain who agreed to finance the voyage.  Magellan was named by the king to be the leader of a voyage of five ships that left Seville, Spain in September of 1519.  Magellan was the first to round South America and cross the Pacific, which he so named because he found the ocean so calm.  But about halfway into his voyage, Magellan along with 40 of his crew were killed by natives in the Philippines on April 27, 1521. The Strait of Magellan, originally named by Magellan as the Todos los Santos, was later renamed in his honor as its discoverer.

The correct answer is Juan Sebastian de Elcano.  Who?  He was the captain of one of Magellan’s five ships and assumed command after his death for the second half of the voyage.  He was the first to successfully circumnavigate the world, arriving back in Sanlucar, Spain on the ‘Victoria’ on September 7, 1522 after a grueling three years and two months.  Elcano received a hero’s welcome and was awarded a coat of arms with the title ‘Primus circundedisti me’ in recognition of his feat as the first man to complete a round-the-world voyage. The other four ships on the Magellan-Elcano voyage were wrecked along the way.  Of the 260 total crew for the five ships, only 21 survived the voyage, and they all were near death from scurvy.  (Google ‘painting by Salaverria of the Arrival of Elcano’ to see just how near death they looked.)  One of the survivors, an Italian named Antonio Pigafetta, kept his own log and wrote of the horrible conditions and food aboard, “The biscuit we ate was by now nothing but powder mixed with the worms that had devoured the substance and it had an unbearable stench from having been soaked in rats’ urine.  The water that we were obliged to drink was equally foul and stinking. In order to avoid starvation we ate pieces of the leather used to bind the mainmast.”

I’ve had no such complaints, so far, from the crew about the meals aboard Traveler.  For the first week it has been mostly fine dining.  But we still have 11 days to go on this 18-day Atlantic crossing, the longest passage of my three-year circumnavigation. We are now out of bread and nearly out of fresh fruit and vegetables, so with each passing day the meal planning is a bit more of a challenge.  Don’t want the Traveler crew to get scurvy.

Living the Dream,
Crossing the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

P.S. What ever happened to Elcano?  After his well-deserved ‘fifteen minutes of fame,’ in 1525 the King of Spain (thinking, What have you done for me lately, Juan?) sent to sea seven ships and 450 men, all under the command of Garcia Jofre de Loaysa, with Elcano as his First Officer–a demotion for the former captain and celebrite d’jour.  Their royal mission was, essentially, to go to the market and pick up some pepper for the king–the ‘market’ being in the Spice Islands on the other side of the world.  A series of disasters occurred and only one of the seven ships made it. Both Loaysa and Elcano, along with most of the crew, died on the voyage.

November 27, 2009

Atlantic Crossing, Day Six

Traveler’s Nov 27 position report:

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 27
22-26N, 027-35W
1905 MTG

All’s well on Traveler.

Not so for one of the ARC boats.  “Auliana II”, a custom JV 53 race boat, lost its rudder and had no way to control the boat.  After many hours of trying to rig a temporary rudder, they gave up and called May Day.  This was on only the first night out of Las Palmas, so they were able to reach the Spanish Coast Guard on Ch 16 and a SAR boat was sent.  (We could faintly hear the SAR effort on our VHF radio.)  They tried to tow the boat back to Gran Canaria, but ripped out the deck cleats because of the high seas and wind.  With the crew safely onboard the rescue boat, the decision was made to abandon the sailboat, which I’m guessing cost about $2 million.  The skipper and crew of seven, all German, had to jump from their sailboat, one at a time with their life jackets on, into the water then swim a short distance to the rescue boat. Salvage efforts were to continue the following day, and we haven’t heard if they were successful or not.

Again, we have fair winds and following seas, and the temperature is a very pleasant 80 degrees (daytime high). Yesterday, after heading southwesterly for the first four days, we gybed and are now on a westerly heading of 269M straight for Barbados.  We have acclimated, somewhat, to the rocking and rolling and hardly notice it anymore.  But Larry’s lunch plate just slid off the table on a deep roll, before his first bite.  And we expect it will be rolly like this the rest of the way, another 12 days.  The days and nights are getting to be routine, with every day pretty much the same, much like in the movie Ground Hog Day.

Surprisingly, we see many ARC boats around us still.  Normally, on a Trans Pac or another long ocean race like this, the boats spread out to the point where you rarely see another boat after the second day. But yesterday, we saw six.  Three of them came within a half mile, and one of those came so close we needed to alter course to avoid a collision.  Maybe I should get my fenders out.

Living the Dream,
Crossing the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

November 26, 2009

Atlantic Crossing, Day Five

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Traveler’s Nov 26 position report:

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 26
23-05N, 024-43W
2069 MTG

All’s well.

The wind is still NE at 15 to 18 and expected to stay that way for the next week or more.  Seas are still 3 to 5 ft and confused, but mostly behind us, causing the boat to roll a lot and making it difficult to sleep and a challenge to cook.

One of the first things you learn as a boater, power or sail, is to stow your fenders after leaving the dock.  A boat cruising around with her fenders still over the side looks like a beginner with training wheels.  That is why I thought it very odd to hear the ARC Race Committee at the Skipper’s Briefing tell all of the skippers to keep their fenders over the side until a few minutes after the start.  Moreover, each boat was strongly urged to stow their bow anchor–not for the reason you think (to get weight off the bow which can adversely effect a racing sailboat’s performance), but (are you ready for this?) to “minimize the damage to the other boat in the event of a collision at the start.”  The Race Committee went on to say, “If you cannot remove your bow anchor then you should place a fender or two over the anchor, and place the rest of your fenders all around the boat.”  I thought, are you kidding me?  Not much confidence in their competence.  Sure enough, at the starting line nearly every boat in the ARC had all of their fenders over the side, bouncing around, looking ridiculous.  And well over half the boats had a fender or two over their bow anchor, ready for collision.  I kid you not.  For some of the ARC skippers, this may have been their first time on a starting line, and certainly with 225 boats it was the largest starting line for the vast majority.  So maybe fenders over the side wasn’t such a bad idea.  After the start, perhaps due to all the excitement, many of the boats forgot they had their fenders over the side and kept them in place.  Maybe their fenders will still be there when they cross the ARC finish line in St. Lucia?

Living the Dream,
Crossing the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

Traveler’s Nov 25 position and fish report

Traveler’s Nov 25 position and fish report:

Our 1300 position, distance made good over the previous 24 hours, and nautical miles to go (MTG)
to Barbados are:

Nov. 25
24-47N, 022-37W
2211 MTG

The wind is great for us: NE at 15 to 18.  Seas are still confused and 3 to 5 ft, but the NW swell is diminishing and the swell from the E, caused by the trade winds, is developing.

We had leftover turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy for lunch.  But Yansen caught a good sized mahi mahi, which we ate for dinner sauteed in butter, soy and lemon. Earlier, right after cleaning it, we ate some of the mahi raw, sashimi-style, with wasabi, soy and ginger.  Yum!

All’s well.

A special toast to all our family and friends for a happy Thanksgiving.

Living the Dream,
at 6.5 knots across the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

November 25, 2009

Abandoned ARC boat, wow!

Hi Barbara,
That’s a sad story about the ARC boat Auliana II losing its rudder.  We could hear faintly on Ch 16 the SAR going on, but did not know any details.  Thanks for sending the email.   Glad the crew is all safe.  Too bad about abandoning the boat.  With the satellite tracking system they will be able to know where the boat is at all times and try again, now that it is daylight, to tow it back or rig a temporary rudder or other jury-rigged steering system. That is a gorgeous, state of the art, $2 million JV53 yacht drifting around out there.

We are having trouble starting our Yanmar, twice now.  The first time, on Day 1, Yansen thought correctly he could get it started by lightly tapping on the starter motor–perhaps a stuck solenoid, and it worked.  The second time, just an hour ago, on Day 4, the light tapping did not get it started.  But then Yansen gently wiggled the bundle of electrical wires near the starter, and the engine started okay.  Sounds like just a loose wire.  We will check it out and try to find and fix the problem.

Other than that, all’s well.  Sailing deep with a poled out jib wing and wing, at 6.5 to 7.0 knots. The swell and sailing so deep is causing the boat to roll a lot, making sleeping uncomfortable and cooking difficult.

Leftover turkey for sandwiches today.

Miss you,

November 24, 2009

Traveler Thanksgiving

Hi, Jim,

Our 1300 positions and distance over previous 24 hours (I’m using that time because that is when we departed Las Palmas):

Nov. 23
27-00N, 021-23W

Nov. 24
26-05N, 020-21W


Day time temperatures are in the high 70s and warming up.  Night time, still need a jacket, but it is pleasant.  A bright half moon is lighting up our route down the ’silver highway’ to the west.

I asked Don Anderson to give us weather routing.  He said to sail for 18N, 38W, then to Barbados. This is slightly south of rhum line to dip below the North Atlantic High (much like Trans Pac).

All’s well on Traveler.  We had our Thanksgiving Dinner tonight (Tuesday), and it was great. We started with champagne and a salad, then roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, and artichokes, then an apple cobbler, chocolates and Bailey’s for dessert.  We dressed in collared shirts, and I set the table with the Waterford china for a Captain’s Dinner, while we sailed under autopilot. We went around the table taking turns toasting what each of us is thankful for, and remembering previous Thanksgiving Dinners.  I think we will remember this one for years to come.

Living the Dream,
at 6.5 knots across the Atlantic,
with Brian, Yansen and Larry

November 23, 2009

On our way

Thanks for the bon voyage email.  We are well on our way.  Had a good start, and put the spinnaker up.  Then the wind increased to 25, which was a bit much for us.  Had trouble getting the spinnaker down, but okay after a few frantic minutes. Then, for a few hours we had a triple reefed main and jib and were still doing 8 knots, sailing deep down wind.  Then the wind shut down after sunset, so we had to motor for awhile.  Then the wind built back up: first to ten, then to twenty, then thirty knots!

It was a wild ride on our first day.

Position as of 0000 utc and local on Nov 23: 27 30 N, 016 10 W, headed 255M at 8+ knots, sailing with a triple reefed main and jib and rolly waves.  Top speed so far 9.3.  2575 miles to go to Barbados.

Living the Dream,

November 22, 2009

Traveler Postcard From Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
The Canary Islands
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Buenos dias,

Well, this is it.  Game Day, baby!  We depart in just a few hours to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, 2650 miles.  It should take is about 18 to 20 days. This is both the longest passage and our last big ocean crossing for our voyage around the world.  After this it is all island hopping and coastal cruising.

We will be starting with 225 other boats in the Atlantic Rally For Cruisers (the ARC), boats and crew from all over the world, and all headed to St. Lucia in the Caribbean.  With that many boats on the starting line, with just two starts 20 minutes apart, it should be quite a spectacle.

As I write this it is 0600 and still dark out, but I’ve been awake for hours thinking about stuff.  As the skipper, as you can imagine, I have a lot on my mind, as the rest of the crew sleeps in.

Did I do a proper provisioning?  I think so.  I bought thousands of Euros worth of groceries, enough to feed the crew of four for a month.  Among other things, we have a full Thanksgiving Dinner planned, including a turkey that I will roast in our small oven, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, an apple pie for dessert, and a bottle of French champagne.  So think of us when you are having your turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and Team Traveler will make a toast to you.

Is the boat ready to go?  I think so.  While in Barcelona a couple of months ago we hauled the boat at the North Wind Boatyard where we had a thorough survey and many repairs.  The bottom is clean.  Everything works.  We got the spinnaker out of storage below the v-berth and hoisted it on our way here, just to practice, and that went well.  It was the first time that sail has been out of the bag since our passage from Vanuatu to Australia. I plan to go up the mast one more time later this morning just to check everything again. Our water and fuel tanks are full, and I changed the filters on the watermaker and the fuel filter. The engine is running great.  Yeah, the boat’s ready to go.

Is the crew ready and up for this long passage?  Again, I think so.  Brian and Larry both sailed with us on our longest passage to date, that being from Hawaii to Tahiti, about 2350 miles. And Brian has come along way in his sailing skills since then, having sailed with us from Singapore to Aden, Yemen, and again this time from Nice, France to here. Larry owns a cruising sailboat and is also a veteran of many Pacific crossings, including sailing together with me on the 2003 Transpac. Yansen sailed with us from Bali to Singapore and again this time from Tangier, Morocco to here.  He is very comfortable on boats, having grown up on fishing boats in Indonesia, and he’s a great addition to the crew.  But his longest passage so far has been only three days. I certainly have gained much experience and learned much about this boat and cruising in general since departing Newport Beach in July 2007.  Last night at our bon voyage dinner, Larry said, half jokingly, that by the time I get back to Newport I will have finally gained the knowledge and experience required to set off on a circumnavigation. But this is my first long passage without Barbara, who I miss much in many ways, including her sailing skills and cruising experience.

Is the weather going to be good?  I went to the ARC Skipper’s Briefing yesterday primarily to hear their meteorologist give his report, and yes, we should have perfect conditions.  The wind will be 15 to 20 out of the NE at the start, building to 20 to 25, and in the coming days the wind will start to clock around to the ENE.  Squalls should be few, and most importantly the surface sea temperature is normal for this time of year.  If it was higher than normal then you must worry about a late season hurricane.

I was also thinking about what was going through the mind of Christopher Columbus the night before he set out from here in 1492 to cross the Atlantic for the first of his four voyages to the New World.  There is an excellent Columbus Museum here, which I very much enjoyed, especially the mock up of the Admiral’s sea cabin, the large scale ship models, Columbus’s logbook, the detailed routes he took showing his noon positions for each day, and the historic charts of the Atlantic. Brian and I stopped by the church where Columbus and his crew attended morning mass before departing, and we too said a prayer for our safe passage.

We plan on making our first land fall at Barbados, which is about 100 miles east of St. Lucia.  We will stay there a few days, tour the Mount Gay Rum factory, and then sail into Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.  There Larry flies home and Barbara joins me for 23 days over her Christmas and New Years vacation.

Living the Dream,

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