APPROPRIATELY this Day, the Feast of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday April 1st is the very last log of SDN Kilcullen Team Ireland. From the lowest of lows on losing my mast half way around; I feel I have come back from the dead and Le Souffle Du Nord have been great partners in our comeback.
Never Again. That said its been an extraordinary adventure - now coming to an end as I cross the line early today in darkness. Rather than go ashore ; we head straight for the Aran Islands off Galway. It will only be another 3 days. I simply cannot handle the welcome party, the sudden attention and I am happy on the boat and do not need the fuss on this date.
It is not just 66 days alone at sea since New Zealand but since January 1st 2015 when we decided to ' Go for It". And for this it is an honour and I thank all who have supported us and our charity, the Atlantic Youth Trust.
Preparations have gobbled- up all the ranges of personal emotion, physical challenge, personal resource, fear and jubilation in between. There is no logic to the logic. And right to the finish line for the final week, rounding the Azores and the North West corner of Spain, the storm crossing the Bay of Biscay, kept me on edge.
With the tribulations of Rounding Cape Horn and a tough upwind slog off the coast of Brazil to the Equator, it was not unreasonable to expect favourable conditions for the final leg to finish. Not So. Entering the Bay of Biscay we were by a massive storm.
Lying in my navigation chair, I was alarmed to see the wind move north of 40 knots in a vicious squall. It was time to shorten sail and furl the jib. I put my foot on the floor, destined for my seaboots and instead stood in water. I swore. Whatever else, keeping socks dry and warm was mission critical.
" Oops, must have left the hatch open" I thought. But no, instead there was tons of water sloshing around the bilges. I was scared. So close and yet so far. Were we in danger of sinking? How fast was it filling ? Were we sinking? Should I run for the coast? My mind raced
Then the boat heeled more. I struggled to get my boots, even if wet, and oilskins on. Whatever the problem, in these cold conditions, to stay protected from the elements is important.
No sooner than I had surfaced on deck there was a crash gybe. The wind and enormous waves were too much for the self-steering in a turbulent ocean, as the seas shorten on the ocean shelf. The boat lay on its side, main stuck against the runner with the keel angled the wrong way. And the wind howled.
After some struggle I eventually got the boat back under control and on the other gybe. This lifted the starboard side clear of the water where the suspected leak was. Quickly I explored the option to make q dart for the Spanish coast.
There is no more efficient way to bail than a frightened man with a bucket. 20 minutes later the bulk of the water was out and the leak - being on the other tack - had stopped for the moment. I found it was the valve for filling the waterballast tanks had opened.
And so this problem was solves - for the moment. It was just one of many dramas on this 60 foot ocean racing machine Every day is on the edge and, you never know what problems seeking solutions will confront you next.
The personal odyssey and I am ready to sign a document that will allow family and friends to lock me up and throw away the key, should I try at my age a repeat performance.
And whether its getting up and walking a 100 metres or climbing Mount Everest, we each have our own challenges but it's the essence of life to live it, set goals, have fun, do our bit and hopefully make the world a better place since we'll all be a long time dead and need each other.
That said, to finish, I take inspiration the words of Samule Beckett and once again thank all who helped your humble Skipper in his " Mission Impossible"
" It may be that my best years are gone
But I would not want them back
Not with the fire that's in me now"
NB: Please support the ATLANTIC Youth Trust whose mission is to connect youth with the ocean and adventure. See www.teamireland.ie/donate. to edit.
My Dubarry Galway Boots were squeezed on. These boots are made for sailing - and these days these boots are sailing all over the world !
Meanwhile progress is brilliant. We power sail north-east, driven by a 27 to 34 knot southerly - almost Gale Force - on the western side of the Azores High. We are surfing the waves, with up to 24 knots boat speed. Keen to finish, Easter Eggs beckon, while all the time I remain on the edge. Like eggs, fragile.
I put on my Galway boots for the first time in five weeks, as I reapply the layers of protection each day moving north. Its Bad and Good.
Bad, because its getting colder, wetter and the seas are more intense as the miles are ticked off. Good, because after clearing the Azores, it's the final 1,200 mile sprint home and the fulfillment of a goal, dream and mission - and promoting the Atlantic Youth Trust.
The fascinating Azores Atlantic islands are the next big turning goal on this incredible physical journey and mental trip - as my mind escapes into reading the Greek philosopher Thales. He defined water as the first principle of the universe, and, Aristotle - who defined goals as the catalyst and driver of humanity - in what is termed teleology of purpose.
The Azores stand out as massive islands - that is if you look at all the ancient maps of the world and the Atlantic Ocean. Essentially the map-makers and ships captains, on whom they relied, exaggerated the size of the islands. They are really just small dots on a world map. This representation reflected their importance as meeting points, centers for trade, commerce, navigation, provisioning, repairs and so forth,
Strategically located, the population of some 250,000 people, are a curious mixture of several nationalities. With seven Islands in total, each with a varying climate and personality, they are one of two independent states within Portugal.
This time I shall not be stopping on the islands. However its good to have them there should repairs being needed. My last visit to St Miguel several years ago was after sailing through the tail end of a Hurricane on a voyage from Florida. I was in bits, but quickly recovered. I shall never forget the rejuvenating bliss on a tired body of the incredible volcanic natural hot water spas.
The Azores as landmarks, reflect the essence of achievement by goal setting - in the same way as the Equator and Cape Horn ranked on this voyage It's a way I survive. While it takes 200 hard grinds to furl the J2 headsail I set a goal of 50 at a time each Aristotle who described goal setting - conscious and sub- conscious - as the essence of life itself.
He called it the conception of teleology of purpose. Perhaps as a result of his preoccupation with biological studies, the philosopher was impressed by the idea that both animate and inanimate behavior is directed towards some final purpose ( telos) or GOAL.
Aristotle maintained that it was common to explain the behaviors of people, institutions and nations in terms of purpose and goals. Even sub-consciously as humans, our goal is to survive. Then a higher level, consciously set goals as individuals and communities is the driver of society. Otherwise its like being on the ocean going nowhere. We drift aimlessly. Teleology brings us to a higher level.
Like on this boat, for me, as in the wizard of Oz. it's the journey and not actually getting there that is the adventure and buzz. For this reason I will not be sure what to to when we finish in Les Sables d'Olonne - other that the goal of some physical pleasures, making love, some juicy steaks, a big Easter Egg, a good party and celebration with friends !
The other great philosopher I have been reading is Thales of Miletus. He preceded Aristotle and is said to he first natural scientist and analytical philosopher in western intellectual history. For him the entire basis of the world as we know it is water. Yes water.
The first principle of life is vapor by evaporation and solid by freezing. It's the essence of everything and two thirds of the world, at least, is covered by it. All life was supported by moisture and he postulated that water was the single casual principle behind the natural world. Without it, there is no life.
Mind you, he was a little off the mark when he reckoned the earth was flat floated on water much like a log or a ship. He even accounted for earthquakes as due to waves rocking earth! Can you imagine the life of an ancient ships captain sailing across oceans - not sure when he would reach the edge and fall off !
Thales was the first to give naturalistic explanation to the universe. His logic about water was central to this. He also concluded that the mind of the world was God in all things - a fundamental for religions as they evolved.
So between Thales and Aristotle defining society by goals and targets and water being the catalyst, perhaps we have it all figured out on this voyage ? Mind you on philosophers, my last word in today's Log must be with Socrates who born around 470 BC
" The only thing I know is that I know nothing"
Except for your Skipper, perhaps the Atlantic ocean. Even just our own northern part always seemed enormous when I first crossed it in a 16 ft dinghy. And now in the context of the oceans of the globe, its small and intimate.
My voyage around the bigger world is a bit like a Passage through life. And now your skipper is weary, keen to finish this Journey to the Edge.
And here I take words from John Boyle O'Reilly's " Passage" ( and when he uses the term 'man' he must mean in this generality both sexes!?)
The world was made when a man was born
He must taste for himself the forbidden springs
He can never take warning from old fashioned things
He must fight as a boy, he must drink as a youth
He must kiss, he must love, he must swear to the truth
And so he goes on until the world grows old.
Till his tongue has grown cautious, his heart has grown cold
Till the smile leaves his mouth, and the ring leaves his laugh
He grows formal with men and with women polite
And distrustful of both when they're out of sight
Then he eats for his palate, and drinks for his head
And loves for his pleasure, - and, 'tis time he was dead!
The Kamikaze fish struck again. It was shortly after the President of Ireland's congratulatory telephone last Friday morning. His call, almost immediately on completion, was also followed by a tropical squall of 30 knot winds as we enter ' home waters' with only 3,000 miles to go.
The squall left us struggling for control - as we approached the edge of the Doldrums on the way in - but the blast of tropical wind moved on as quick as it came, while the Flying Fish persisted in attacking.
When they hit the decks. I though it was gunfire. Like pellets from a shotgun blast, they jumped through the waves - expecting something different - and get a rude shock to land our ocean real-estate. Drowning on our decks ( this is what happens fish out of water) they stayed to be cook alive and die, in mornings sun.
Since, we have negotiated our way out of the Doldrums - which lasted for only about 100 miles- and had a clean exit. Likewise these flying fish are a sure sign that you are getting into the trade winds, as we head north west, in a steady 20 knots - leaving the Caribbean to port and the Cape Verde Islands to Starboard.
Our direction is way off course to where we want to go. However, as we move north west, the trades gradually veer to the east allowing us to gradually track around to the north. And then, not going further east than 40 degrees East and from 30 North we will hit the west side of the Azores High.
Then we pick up the prevailing westerlies take us to the finish at Le Sables d'Olonne - I hope before Easter in time for some chocolate and Easter eggs. Now down to water, dehydrated foods and food supplements all the sweet things and food on the margin has been eaten and food is scarce.
It has been like entering a different planet since rounding the corner at Recife on the north east corner of Brazil. One was hot, headwinds and slow progress. The other has been cooling trade winds and off wind sailing and the magic of crossing the equator.
Meanwhile its "champagne sailing" on the edge of the beautiful Caribbean ocean. We have steady cooling trade winds, mentioned previously to be moving more around in our favour as we make progress directly north. Its days like this that make the pain on other days bearable, and makes it all worthwhile and great to be alive .
It is indeed a privilege to have command of a ship like this on the ocean. Sometimes we want the voyage to go on forever and other times, there is an urgency to ' get off " and resume shore life.
One complication is the amount of surface floating seaweed. It keeps snarling our hydro - generator which charges the batteries. Between the self-steering,, the computer system and navigation lights at night and water de-salination, power supply is important and I have to watch this and constantly clear the weed. However, as one might say this is a "First World" problem.
And while I am sailing conservatively, I do want to get home in time for Easter. So the boat is well powered up and I have 3,000 litres of water or about 6,400 lbs in weight on the side to keep the boat balanced. This is the same has having over 30, 100 kilo men on the weather-rail!
The boat has 12 water ballast thanks in all. Six on either side and they are configured for either going up-wind, down-wind or reaching or some combination in between. As you can imagine filling and managing these thanks in a complex task in itself and this part alone - transferring water from one side to the other - in a tack takes about 20 minutes and a lot of pipe opening and closing and suction.
Finally, in the last log I mentioned the ATLANTIC Youth Trust Charity. ( atlanticyouthtrust.org) For those who have contributed, thanks. It will go a long way in the charity seed funding for the youth development vessel - now at a crucial stage. Its something we should all be passionate about in " putting something back in".
In particular the object is to build the best such youth program in the world from incredible R&D work done to date. There are various benefits from contributing and its tax deductible. So if you have not done so, please consider it at teamireland.ie/donate. And for clarity, all funds will go directly to the registered charity. Thanks in anticipation.
The President of Ireland's Office called on the Sat. phone. As per SOB I answered " South Atlantic Residents Association. How may I direct your call"
Confused, the man almost hung up until I got him back and clarified my mistake. I should, of course, have said the " North Atlantic Residents Association… " - since we have just crossed the Equator.
The crossing was a truly magical moment, early Friday 16th March after 48 days at sea. King Neptune and his Court who gave us a personal audience and a warm welcome, having remembered us from the outward journey.
Then President Higgins came on the line and congratulated us on the voyage. This was indeed a great honour - not just for your humble skipper but all our partners, friends and those who have supported the project.
We talked for 10 minutes on a range of subjects from the success of his recent visit to New Zealand to celebrating St Patricks Day - it also being the National Day in Monseratt in the Caribbean which I now leave to port. Bizarrely most of the sugar cane plantation managers for Irish and the slaves picked St Patricks Day as the perfect day to rise-up since their masters would be having a party,
For those who have followed our ship's log through our Journey thanks for your interest. The Sunday Independent will be publishing the next Log so rather than my regular ' guff ' for those following the adventure, I write about something special. Without shame ask to support. something incredible.
It can be small or large to help the Atlantic Youth Trust Charity We've had everything from €1 - €40,000 donated by individuals and companies so no amount is too small and it makes a difference.
To be clear, 100% of all funds will go to the Atlantic Youth Trust. And for the record the ATLANTIC Trust has not paid 1 cent towards the branding and promotion contributed through the Vendee. The Kilcullen Team Ireland Ocean project has in fact helped raise funds and profile both on the island of Ireland and internationally.
For me it is an honour to play a role in this initiative and thankfully, as business has gone well I have been able to support it financially myself. My late father, Lord rest him, always said " You should put something back in" here I have been honoured to promote this charity. Will you actually do something? Now?
Atlantic's mission is clear to connect young people with the ocean and adventure.
As a child I was always in trouble at school and ' difficult" . I was fortunate to be selected to go on Asgard 1, a sail training vessel and it changed my life. Mind you many might say I am still difficult and in trouble - perhaps - one of another kind but this in not for me to judge.
Anyway Asgard II was lost, as was NI's vessel and the island of Ireland at the same time found itself rudderless in a tough recession. There was no appetite to rebuild.
It has been a tragedy for maritime youth development. We had no certified vessel or professional structure integrated to the education system to take youth to sea, introduce them to careers in the maritime and personal development.
As is often is the case with tragedy comes opportunity. Here the Atlantic Youth Trust saw is a once in a lifetime to look around the world with a 'clean-sheet" to see who did it best. Generous seed-funders came in and ATLANTIC in an independent project surveyed 16 countries and held Town Hall style meetings around Ireland to harvest views and build consensus for the best solution and value in a 30 year plus project,
This is a World Class, Youth Development Tallship. It will be professionally run but supported by a large Irish and Global volunteer based structure. Essentially the Maritime dimension to the Irish diaspora story - appropriate to think of on this St Patricks Weekend,
No matter who a child is, from any part of Ireland, they would have the opportunity to taste the ocean and adventure on this ship.
In our global research the New Zealand model stood out. With climate similarities in the South Island and similar populations. ATLANTIC their template, they are incredibly helpful and we have had several exchanges.
The economic model shows a massive return on investment for youth at risk, those following careers at sea, marine industry development, even tourism promotion and much more,
Incredible progress has been made. Teams in NI and ROI are working on details to move forward but the project urgently needs smart seed funding and public support to keep going. See www.atlanticyouthtrust.org.
Also some great member trustees have got in behind the organization and mission. Thee are led by the Chairman Peter Cooke, David Beattie, Sean Lemass, John Killeen, John Coyle, Jerry Dowling and Gerard O'Hare to mention just a few It is a professionally run charity. Neil O'Hagan is the CEO and the offices are kindly sponsored by Irish Lights, the North-South navigation authority.
You'll find ways to donate online www.teamireland.ie/donate .
ATLANTIC have gifts small and large for all donations over €30 and I am happy to consider any corporate speaking type activities in return for a donation to the Trust.
Now, in theory the circumnavigation is complete. The Equator marks the beginning of the End in what has been an extraordinary adventure and very tough challenge. Also TEAM Ireland want to keep going and would like people to get in behind Gregor McGuckin's entry in the Golden Globe Around the World Challenge and Joan Mulloy in the FIGARO this year and Nin O'Leary's Vendee plans with IOR.
However its not over. Now its north through the Doldrums, the North Easterly Trade Winds past the Caribbean and up the North Atlantic leaving the Azores High to starboard to finish in early April. Now that's an excuse for a great party.
But please please make a contribution to the ATLANTIC Youth Trust. Every bit counts. www.teamireland.ie/donate
Gradually and painfully we are beating north and upwind in a choppy rolling sea. With 20 knot winds, we are inching closer to top right corner of Brazil. My worry is that whether the sail repairs will hold up? And somewhat ironically, had we been some days earlier or some days later the winds would have been more in our favour.
Also, while internet access is extremely limited on board, I am really appreciative of the wonderful well wishers and messages. Thanks. It will be on return before I get a chance to go through them all. From the Equator home we will be doing an appeal for the Atlantic Youth Trust charity and I hope it will be supported.
Could the poor luck in wind direction be linked to the breaking of my Maori Pounmu good luck stone around my neck? Its chunky and it broke when grinding the winches. Hopefully the bad luck will be temporary - as I have replaced it with the spare - also blessed by the Maori priest in Auckland, which is a lighter and sleeker Pounmu stone….
On reaching Recife and turning the corner, the winds should come our way. And from here our holy Mecca: The Equator. I have little doubt, filled with Vestal Virgins and Commonly Maidens dancing at the Meridian with King Neptune. After this, it's the trade winds: up past the Caribbean and doldrums, west around the Azores High and a brisk Spring arrival in Le Sables d'Olonne, Western France, we hope and I remain nervous…
To make progress and for decisions, The Residents Association have been very active. With each tack and windshift, our navigation tactics are having to be debated. The exasperating experience in the hot sun, has convinced me that democracy does not work.
And during of all this debate, an old friend John McDonald called from the middle of the Cooke Straights on his way to Sydney. He says that he has been following our logs and the "Skippers slow demise into insanity".
Well John, we have news for you.
The Straights, are so named by the great explorer, whose 250th anniversary is being celebrated shortly in New Zealand. The Straights separate the North Island from the South Island, while John - in your strait jacket - on board the Cruise Liner, enjoy your trip!
With democracy, decision making is divisive, inefficient, slow and it is hard to get things done. And, as Adolf Hitler might say, declared by our resident monkey on board, and Association President ( also named Adolf)
"Either lead, follow or get out of the way".
Be that as it may, democracy is the best system developed to date by the human race to run advanced educated societies and for progress - giving everyone their say. However, at some point you have to make a decision, tack on the windshifts, change course and get on with it.
Referring to John Mc's comment on madness. Over my lifetime and various adventures, whether it is starting a business, heading out on my own across the Atlantic in a 16 foot inflatable experimental sailing liferaft or meeting Jackie Onasis, they say:
"Sure he's mad, odd as two left feet and not all there"
Or something that that effect implying that you are a person to be wary of, to put down, avoid his new ideas, ways of thinking and not be accepted. In short, we fear agents of change.
I have stated clearly before in this Log that this to me that labeling something as "mad" is a cop-out. It basically says that the person making the comment, in my humble view, does not understand. And when this happens, people are quick to put what you are doing outside their comprehension zone.
In a way, by going our "on a limb" you are breaking with convention. This makes many people feel uncomfortable and threatened. You become a subconscious threat to what is their norm and for that reason they box you out.
In total contradiction to this, to undertake unusual activities such as taking a 60 foot boat on your around the world you have to be distressingly sane. Quite simply a person who is "Mad" in the conventional sense simply would not survive.
The reality is you have to be very organised to prepare for voyages and run a boat, make a business work or survive families sure as the fella says "Unless Chaos is organised it is Panic" So my message form this log is to all: Relax. No worries. Sure we'll all be a long time dead and only the good people die young anyway.
That said, each minute, hour and day, I live on the edge and take risks. Our boat is constantly powering along and, such are the forces and loads, you never know what is going to happen next. Walking the decks, changing sails, tacking or gybing, anything can happen.
Just yesterday after emptying a bucket of waste (the biodegradable variety - need I say more) I slipped and fell after mis-timing a wave with the bucket in the other hand. My leg was hurt and the end of a winch handle narrowly escaped poking my eye out.
Anyway, living here in total isolation, I could be in a space capsule or trapped in a prison cell. Here off the coast of Brazil. As one does, I reread some 30 verses from Oscar Wilde's famous "Ballad of Reading Gaol" where he was put-down for " moral crimes " - namely for being gay.
This was his last work since being sent to prison. On release, he suffered from ill-health. And he resided in a low-rent Paris Hotel. He is said to have hated his bedroom wallpaper and it was reported that his last words were " Something has to go".
In my case still beating upwind, " The wind has to shift" and the same could be said for this capsule where I have been boxed this past 45 days,
A little depressing, Wilde in the Ballad was referring to love. He wrote about a friend who he had met in prison for killing his wife and he was destined for the Gallows.
So from my cell on this boat, where the headwinds have killed my love of sailing (for the moment) I extract and co-relate while not ultimately agreeing with the great writer's thesis. And while I would never kill a wife, with justification the wife could kill me. Go figure.
"Yet each man kills the things he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword.
"Some kill their love when they are young
And some when they are old
Some strangle with the hands of Lust
Some with the hands of Gold….
The kindest use a knife
Because the dead soon grow cold
Some love too little, some too long
Some sell, and others buy.
Day 40 - Act III - your skipper is distressingly sane while the rest of the world, we all know, is crazy.
Last night we got to within 20 miles of Vitoria. A small city by Brazil standards with approx. 350,000 souls. An indicator of being close, were insects fatally attracted to the glow of my computer screen. I killed them. It reminds me why being away on the ocean is so attractive. No bugs. No infections, bacteria or in my case allergies….
In other words its very healthy. So on this 40th day at sea I will update on my diet, the other part of being healthy. And the third pillar is physical activity - here our Skipper is demanding. There is no shortage of grinding and pulling ropes on this ship - in fact I have rarely worked as hard physically in my short life to date.
Indeed I could be at risk of dying from health. And, as to the mysterious non-definable extra psychological pillar, its simply a fact that your skipper is distressingly sane while the rest of the world, we all know, is crazy.
And tempting as it might have been to land at Vitoria ( my guess is that an early settler could not spell and lost a " C " somewhere) the Residents Association voted against. When Googled, the fact that the local Police have been on strike recently, murders are up - and citizens are protesting about crime - swung the decision to head back straight offshore away again from so-called civilization.
Last night off Vitoria, whose lights glowed in the dark with no moon, was nerve wrecking. Between all the oil rigs and service vessels and fishing boats,without AIS, an extra demanding watch was necessary. To fight sleep, each 30 minutes or so, I set the alarm to stay alert.
Brazil and its enormous coastline seems to go on forever. As do the oil rigs, as we worked our way up along the coast into the headwinds. Our target and magical turning point is at Recife on the North East corner. From there veer to port, picking up the bottom end of the North East and Easterly Trade Winds - and blast our way to the Equator and home….
So enough about oil rigs. The incredible Offshore Wells, remote and away from public view, were highlighted in the last log. Not being aware of them, it was as if we found oil all on our own. Except that Joan Mulloy of Team Ireland Ocean Racing - reported to our Skipper that she in fact knew all about them. She had toiled as a sub-contractor doing computer analysis designing pipelines running between drillship and seabed - which she never saw - all from an industrial estate in Galway's Ballybritfor the Brazilian conglomerate Petrobras!
By reference, Joan has aspiration to do the Vendee, has the talent and ability. She deserves our support. This year she is campaigning a Figaro in France based in Lorient - with a regatta in Les Sables d'Olonne over St Patrick's weekend, where I plan to finish " unofficially " the Venedee. For 2018, Joan will be an Ambassador for Irish seafood.
And while Joan is busy being a seafood Ambassador, to some people's surprise, I do not fish while sailing. Instead it's a diet of freeze-dried astronaut type food. Essentially most fish small enough to catch are on ocean shelves close to land. Out in the deep, there is no place for them to feed and besides, generally we go too fast. To boot, cooking facilities on board do not exist other than the ability to boil water. By contrast, my life adventure has been attempting to "boil the ocean"
Anyway, clearly to survive, stay functional and keep my sanity, a regular stable diet on board is a challenge after 40 says at sea, So its down to basics. With all the fresh food long gone, followed by the sweet things - and treats - now gone.
For food preparation, In New Zealand I took a trip to Invercargill. Its at the very bottom of the South Island. Here there is an Irish pub and Back Country Cuisine are based there. A great pub called Waxies, which has a very professional manager, Hamish Baird. Oddly, it is owned by a local government Trust and has joined Irish Pubs Global network.
Back Country manufacture uniquely convenient food dishes. They are designed specially for outdoor adventurers for nourishment and to sustain.Having heard about this extraordinary company, popular with adventurers for their light weight tasty food, I though it important to visit and see the products first hand.
Following a tour of the factory I went through the menu and ordered up three months supply. Meal preparation is ultra simple. I power boil just enough water, slice open the foil packet, mix it up, allow it to sit for 10 minutes and that's it. The technology is interesting with massive ovens that extract all the moisture individually from the ingredients. They are designed in such a way that when the moisture returns you have a perfect meal.
And while all food suppliers must have a use-by-date, in theory these meals can last for ever if kept perfectly sealed. I wager that, had Back Country food been available for Irishman Ernst Shackelton's visits to the Antarctica, he would have had a supply. In addition to finding some perfectly preserved bottles of whiskey under his Antarctic Cabin, they might well have found a Back Country supply ready to eat !
The only other staple in my diet is a sachet of porridge every morning and a meal of Revive Active ingredients. They are a Galway company who produce a range of natural food supplements and are to be highly recommended. Even when not on the ocean, I supplement my diet with their products - which I only discovered by chance and started as I got older - and have never been as healthy!!
Mind you, my culinary skills and not being particular over diet and what I eat are minimalist. Like an ability to roll up and sleep anywhere, my stomach is fairly tough and resilient. So much so that, in a fit of understandable anger, a while back, my then young bride wife fed me pet food without telling me.
It was pre-mobile days. And once upon a time in Ireland when the wait list for phone lines was more like a dream list for our new box starter home in remote sub-urban Dublin. Anyway, instead of going straight home for dinner, after work I met an old friend, Derek, for a pint of Plain or two - leaving my bride at home hanging..
Some time later that evening, eventually leaving the pub, I invited Derek to come to our new home for dinner. I had not realized at the time that my commander-in-chief was waiting diligently with a romantic meal for two. So what could she do? When I got home, all smiles, she fed Derek my dinner, had hers and me the pet foot in the middle of the rice…
You could have cut the tension in the air with a knife. So in a vain attempt to make-up, I quickly finished dinner. And, dug an even larger grave for myself, by complimented her on the meal, and asked for more ! My unfortunate new bride, though very well justified in sending me this message which backfired,had to keep it a secret until Derek had gone…
Fast forward to today on board our boat, fortunately the Resident's Association have a no pet policy, excluding of course Adolf our monkey, Paddy our Leprechaun and our little bear.
So sailing into the dark night, to conclude today's log discussing diet, oil rigs again and having a Pint after work, I quote from Patrick Kavanagh:
" When money's tight and hard to get
and your horse has also ran
When all you have is a heap of debt
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN"
Day 38 - Act III - we inadvertently sailed into the middle of one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world
Some 150 miles off Rio de Janeiro we inadvertently sailed into the middle of one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world. Between drilling platforms and supporting vessels is enormous. And risky picking our way through. This was the highlight of the past few days where I reached a new low.
For a time, with the Carnival just over, Rio was a real possibility as we came within 80 miles before going back east again out sea - in reality all the boat and psychological problems were problems looking for solutions, which we are finding - and will be found - as we creep along.
Winds have almost been non-existent as we went from cloud to cloud. Power had become a a problem. This is critical from Nav, to self-steering, safety lights and making enough water. With the auxiliary engine and charger out of action, we did not have enough speed to power hydro-generator.
To boot, it was 30 degrees C with no protection from the sun to the South West, as we sail North East - at the height of Summer - I was cooking and could have been eaten - rare.
First I thought it was another sailboat - given the unusual vertical shape of the large oil rig, Then it kept getting bigger and bigger. And, as darkness came, gas was being burned off and the massive flames from the other rigs, made it seem like Christmas - on steroids.
We discovered it to be the Lula Oil field on the Santos Basin. It is considered to be the western hemispheres largest discovery of oil in last 30 years. Upper estimates put it at a 30 billion barrels. And not so long ago we were being told that our planet is running out of oil….
Discovered by Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil conglomerate in 2008, it was 2011 that the first oil delivery was made and currently the oil fields are targeted to reach 500,000 barrels a day. Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, after whom the find was named, says its discovery is a " Second Independence for Brazil".
The oil is located in water about two miles deep and then another three miles through salt, sand and rocks. Its working is the product of major steps forward in the technology of extracting oil - heralding a massive growth in offshore oilfields - driven by super computers new materials coatings, sub-sea sensors and much more.
The attractions for the major oil companies is that resource nationalism denies them access to three quarters of the worlds known reserves. The economics and politics offshore are simpler.
Out here they only have to contend with obscure organizations such as our South Atlantic Residents Association - and nobody else to object for thousands of miles on this vast open space.Sometimes, something as simple as a glass of whiskey and a good cigar can do the trick. Indeed I recollect driving through remote parts of oil rich Venezuela where it was $5 dollars to fill your car and a bottle of whiskey was $30!
That said, given the complexity of the geological formations deep down, there I a lot of risk and development does not come cheap.They had spent $1 bn before extracting anything and the ultimate costs of extracting all the oil is put at between $50 Bn and $100 Bn. - telephone numbers, you might say !!!
Also developing this massive reserve was not without controversy. On the way to getting started,there were several accidents, massive explosions, men died. Also what was said to be one of the largest rigs in the world, sank.
Back on board our comparative little ship, navigating through the oil fields, in conserving power everything from the Sat phone the electronic barometer had to be turned off. Also for several hours I hand-steered - saving on the big power consumption of the self-steering system.
And so the voyage of your Le Souffle du Nord Kilcullen Team Ireland gang continues through its ups and downs. As we all inhabit our own little worlds, whatever they may be, through trials and tribulations and whatever you're having yourself. One day at a time.
And each day the Equator gets closer and closer. A remarkable contrast to our last big turning point, Cape Horn - and tough - in another way. Its crossing will be a "mile-stone" having passed through on the way out when my grand-daughter Feile was born.
And, as they say:
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going
And the big secret to good navigation
Is to steer around the rocks
Power be damned"
EACH DAY we slowly work our way up along the coast of South America. The ultimate next goal being the Equator, 2,000 miles ahead. Each day it gets warmer. The layers are off.
It's only when you count out each mile - that one realizes the scale of Brazil alone - as we get closer to Rio de Janeiro - having left Buenos Aires and Montevideo 500 miles to port.
In the light airs, the South Atlantic Residents Association have also been active - discussing its currency, where there are real concerns relating to the US dollar, and other affairs of the economy. And, all 'fresh' provisions are exhausted, together with 'sweet things' by design. To boot, all food supplies for members are monitored.
For body nourishment, its now down to the basic Back Country dehydrated food supplying enough calories each day. This is supplemented by plenty of fresh water - made from the ocean by our magical 'desalination plant' on board - and my Revive Active dietary supplements.
For brain nourishment, it's a 24/7 or 25/8 living on the edge. Constantly on the alert. Sailing through day and night, blind, you simply never know what is going to happen next.
Long periods of inactivity are interfaced with intense bursts of being very busy - while I exist here totally in my own bubble. We may as well be on a space capsule riding to Mars - as being on this vast ocean.
As with the Wizard of Oz, it's the journey rather than getting there, And that's the answer - don't mind the question.
Given that there are virtually no weather systems, Highs or Lows in these settled conditions, its hard to do anything clever to move our boat faster. And while we are only racing against ourselves on the water - and others on computers - there is a strong competitive instinct that wishes to get the best performance to do justice to the boat ad team.
As a 'Thoroughbred " of the ocean you cannot " half-sail her" in the same way that you cannot be " half-pregnant" Each day I marvel as to how the IMOCA Ocean sailing class design has developed and continues to evolve and how one person can sail faster than a Volvo 65 which is bigger and has a crew of 10!
The daytime wind tends to be lighter. Our strategy is to also stay on the tack closest to the layline rather than going to either corner of the course for better weather systems. Each night the wind - with the thermal effect from the ocean and temperature difference - the wind tends to increase to 10 to 15 knots. During the day 4 to 10 knots is the norm and an odd time it goes flat calm.
The constant challenge is to try to get the boat moving faster than the wind. In fact we create our own wind from movement that makes it happen. Given the right angle, sometimes I get her up to 9 knots in 6 or & knots of wind!
This way, by always keeping moving, we can keep the average up and gradually, mile by mile, graft our way north. Longer than expected. We are unlikely to make Le Sables d' Olonne for St Patricks Day or my family reunion - but it is as it is!
The mind wanders. In particular our South Atlantic Residents Association are very wealthy. Our money supply is infinite and beats Bitcoin all the time.
As a matter of fiction, a wealthy American came to stay at our luxury accommodation on board. He deposited $1,000 for the en-suite room forward and being early in the day, went for a long walk on deck. I took the money and paid our fish supplier $1,000. This fisherman In turn owed his boat builder $1,000 and he was paid. And the same boat builder owed me $1,000 for services and he kindly paid me back.
It all happened very quickly and, going the full circle, didn't the American return and announced that he would not stay. And, since he had not checked in to the cabin forward, demanded his money back - which he got.
Therefore everyone was paid and nobody was out of pocket. This begs the question, which has been racking the brains of the Residents Association: what is money?
Historically it was based on a finite commodity such as gold and not just ' fresh - air ' the basis as our currency here in the South Atlantic. And now, on a bigger scale, instead of closing the massive US deficit of roughly some $600 bn to $400 bn as planned , Donald Trump looks set to increase it to a Trillion dollars!
So like his massive property bankruptcy history, based on debt, he is doing the same to the US. Some day, when we least expect it, the ' penny will drop' and all the money the US Fed are making out of "Fresh Air" will have no value. Based on nothing the economy will collapse while the US being the US, will reinvent itself with a lot of pain for us all.
So the world is in for a shock. The ice age did not happen over hundreds of years. It came quick. Water gets cold at a certain instant it freezes. Likewise water gets hot and at a certain instant it boils. Each situation brings massive change to the water. One ice hard. One Steam.
And now there is little difference between our "unit of account" for currency as fresh air here on the South Atlantic as the US money - based on nothing. I think a big storm will come and we'll all be in trouble. So prepare, and batten down the hatches!
Which leads me to take another stanza from Joseph Plunket's "Wave of the Sea"
"My soul is in the salt of the sea
The strength of the wave.
In the bubbles of foam
In the ways of the wind"
Day 31 Act III - the mixture of canned tuna, blackcurrant juice, caramel coffee and potato did not help - as it all came up again
This past several days we have been trapped. To declare that I am frustrated and deflated is an understatement. It is such - that an EGM of the South Atlantic Residents Association ended in apathy - as we enter our second month at sea - and talk of Cannibalism, Uruguay, and accidentally world famous school and rugby.
Its one extreme to another. We have been locked, seemingly., in a never-ending high pressure system. It was spread wide on either side and difficult to escape.
Instead we are catching snippets of wind here, there and everywhere to slowly and painfully make our way up along the coast of South America.Its been a bit like the Doldrums, coming early, on steroids.
Its busy. Lots to do. But motivation on board is at a low, to do anything, When on track, on course, in a breeze the world is the greatest. But it is at times like this you need all your staying power and mental strength to stay sane and focused.
I was also sick in my stomach - mind you the mixture of canned tuna, blackcurrant juice, caramel coffee and potato did not help - as it all came up again - what a waste. However we have plenty of supplies on board.
Seeking to avoid the high pressure, we are way out in the Atlantic - as we slowly creep North. Argentina is ahead - bordering Uruguay- where I first visited the Capital, Montevideo, which I remember clearly from 25 years ago. It was a fascinating privilege to stay at the Stella Maris School with a group of Irish Christian Brothers from Ireland through a friend's introduction. Their order established the school in 1955 and reported to Dublin.
With a large staff, the school was then run by about 8 Brothers at the time - though I understand this has scaled back considerably with less and less vocations. The school had over 700 students and educated the elite of this small country. For bizarre reasons the school had become accidentally world famous.
Ironically it was almost a victim of its own success. Driven by a wonderful idealism, the Order had come to Uruguay to bring the concept of Christianity back to society through education and were invited by local families. It had been lost through successive dictatorships and the banning of religion.
Stella Maris, named by the founder, Brother Patrick Kelly a devotee of the Virgin Mary, had become one of the best and most exclusive schools in the country - educating the families of top politicians and business people.
After a relatively turbulent history, Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America with a population of just over 3.4 million - with about half in Montevideo. In 2013 it was named as the " country of the year" by the Economist. Its laws are liberal from same-sex marriage to the legalizing of Cannabis and is one of the most socially developed countries in the region.
It ranked highly on global measures of personal rights and in economic freedom, growth, software, e-commerce, infrastructure investment. Nearly 95% of the countries electricity comes from renewable sources - mostly wind parks and hydroelectric.
The Stella Maris School has also led the way in developing the Rugby Union of Uruguay. And it was in 1972 that a school rugby team and supporters were flying on an Uruguayan Airforce plane. It crashed in the Andes and, after several days all hope was lost and the searching was stopped.
This is where the Cannibalism came in. Ultimately in a truly amazing story of survival. Only 16 survived after 72 days, of the 45 on the plane and they did it by eating the dead.
It became the subject of a book (ALIVE: The Story of the Andes Survivors) and a major film. And so concluding the log - in the world of survival and adventure there is a lot to be said for a Christian brothers education out here in the South Atlantic Ocean - where thinking and doing are equated. And on the fine words of Thomas Moore I quote:
"I've been told by learned Christians
That wishing and the crime are one
And Heaven punishes desires
As much as if the deed were done."
" If wishing damned us, you and I
Are damned to all our hearts content
Come, then, at least we may enjoy
Some pleasure for our punishment"
WE HAD a major event on board. The Skipper changed his socks.
Also one of the largest Cruise Ships in the World, the Island Princess out of Bermuda, turned around on our account, a deep sea trawler off Chile gave us a shock - we thought they were pirates - and most important, mainsail repairs have been completed. Now we have no need to stop at the Falklands and we are now slowly beating North into headwinds up the South Atlantic.
The sock change came after three weeks on the same feet, night and day. In fact I might almost say, they hardened up and walked themselves overboard cheered and encouraged by the Southern Ocean Residents Association. And while they gave good service, the sheer delight in wearing a fresh pair was almost erotic.
I have been wearing the same clothes all the time for warmth. Also I am also fairly certain the socks would not have qualified for the Souffle du Nord 'odd socks' charity fundraising campaign - so they were no loss when tossed over the side. Being biodegradable, the ocean will quickly absorb them.
This is unlike my other rubbish to date of the two refuse sacks - collected on board from living. This will be disposed and hopefully recycled on landfall.
Be that as it may, following the elation of rounding Cape Horn, it was back to work to execute repairs under almost ideal conditions. For almost two days we were becalmed off the coast Tierra del Fuego. The ocean was beautiful, rich in sealife and large clumps of drifting seaweed - that snarled around the keel and rudders. The weed was difficult to remove, however sailing the boat backwards helped.
And while not pretty, the mainsail repair looks solid. For one person it was demanding removing the sail from the boom and patching it. Effectively one of the broken battens, went out of control in the 40 knot squall when I was dropping the main and its sharp end punched two large holes and 8 small holes in the sail.
The damage fortunately was not structural to the sail and after sewing the heavy sail together I put on several patches secured on by Sycaflex, a powerful flexible adhesive.
It was another problem and another solution found.
Through friends of friends a kind introduction to the Harbourmaster in Port Stanley in the Falklands was made. Fortunately I managed to avoid stopping for repairs which has a different set of risks for a solo sailor in a 60 footer in a commercial port.
Also, within the "Spirit of the Vendee and finishing unofficially, I wanted if at all possible to remain self-contained and complete the repair onboard. Here a great thanks to Maxime Buoy and Pierre-Antoine Tesson for their excellent preparatory work.
Mind you; we did sail past the Falklands. For many other reasons it would have been great to visit and see how they are getting on since Argentina grabbed them in 1982 from the British. Then Margaret Thatcher mustered an invasion Task Force who fought and won the islands back two months later.
It's still enshrined in my memory. It was fascinating to follow at the time and perhaps the last great maritime and traditional war. It played out in slow motion as the massive task force was assembled over several weeks and sailing to the Falklands. And while Britain still holds the islands and the vast majority of the islanders wish to remain British, they Maldives as the Argentinians remain a source conflict between the two countries for almost 200 years.
Now 35 years later the islands are self-governed while Britain provide Defence and Foreign Office representation. In world ranking the Falklands have the 222nd smallest economy in the World out of 229 countries ranked. However their per capita annual income at $96,000 is the 5th highest in the world. So I guess it's a cool place to visit,
The islands developed most as a shipping base and repair centre, some 350 miles from Cape Horn, before the Panama Canal opened in 1914 and had been in decline until the Argentinian invasion. And now with fishing, sheep farming and the prospect of oil, the population is growing again.
Then as we sailed north, past the Falklands and up along the South American coastline, early in the morning my collision alarm sounded on board. On looking out in the distance a vessel was approaching and pointed straight at me.
With some tales of local Hispanic pirates I was alarmed. All I could do was start the auxiliary motor to avoid them and have flares ready, my only defence. Or should I be passive and not resist? Gradually it grew and grew on the horizon. What kind of vessel was it?
I need not have worried. It was a Chilean long-liner fishing boat which simply swept past. I guess it was simply boredom or curiosity and they came past to check us out! With a massive wave (of relief on my side) they were on the way. With language issues, radio contact, was futile.
And later that day, these being my first vessel encounters in almost a month since leaving New Zealand I had a totally different kind of visitor. It was a massive cruise ship, the Island Princess out of Bermuda. She is one of the largest in the World and I guessed had followed me a few days later around Cape Horn, being too big to go through Panama,
She actually went past and that was it. Or so I thought. Some 20 minutes later, while below deck, I looked up and saw the massive ship hovering above in the evening light. Clearly they had come back - a massive exercise for such a ship - and must have thought I could be in trouble. This was very embarrassing.
While in a little shock, I grabbed the hand-held VHF and called the ship on channel 16 and established quick contact and explained to the ship, the radio operator and I guess the Captain, that I was fine and really did not wish to cause any inconvenience and would have called if that was the case when passing. It seems that I had caused some excitement on board.
I was surprised that any passengers even noticed me. Or could it have been my socks?
They explained some passengers were watching and reported to the Bridge that they thought I might be in trouble. Therefore Captain felt obliged to turn around. They seemed relaxed about it and went on their way while I had a friendly chat with the ship. One of the officers said he would be in Paris April 9th so I invited him for a drink at O'Sullivan's Irish Pub - I guess the owner Tom St.John will oblige with a pint!!
So with that, in the comfort of fresh socks and as a tribute to Le Souffle du Nord's collection of odd socks I finish with a selection of two expressions.
"Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me……"
"Enda, your're a Hard Man…
Hard as socks…."
In response to which I was never sure was this a compliment or an insult? Being positive as the voyage of our ship sails on, I opt for the former, though the latter may be more deserved.