45 531 S , 165 49 E
With over 1,000 miles sailed since Dunedin I am still looking back. The 12,000 remaining ahead are too much to contemplate, but I am changing. Earlier today, feeling the isolation, your Skipper shouted and roared and walked the decks. But sure who cares?
I don't matter and am just a drop in the ocean. The problem is that I am distressingly sane, everybody else is mad. I state this as not only being a fact, but the truth!! As I sail around the bottom of the world - struggling to fulfill my dream. It is a logic without logic?
Actually, to my elation, people do care - and thanks to the wonderful update from Sylvie. She kindly described the Skipper's log like ' finding a bottle in the sea' and reported the launch of our collective challenge '13,000 miles for 13,000 smiles'. Already for Le Project Imagine there is a response for people to document their little big actions for each mile we sail. It's wonderful.
The first application, Sylvie reported, concerns one association wishing to promote the inclusion of young people with disabilities through sport. It seeks 2 volunteers to supervise groups of 1 to 3 children, 1 hour a week for indoor football sessions. Another wants to return to Brittany to kiss his grandmother before she dies...
Now alone, I feel the sheer vastness and isolation. It is humbling. Since departing the Heads at Otago in Kiwiland, I have not seen a solitary ship or any trace of humanity on this ocean - save the omnipresent magnificent Albatross's seabirds who once helped us save a life. Also, while it should be less, I become more afraid and nervous as time progresses. Each wave, each race around the deck, each activity is a risk. Doing nothing is not an option. It's constant.
And while I can be really alone on the ocean and isolated. It is possible for a fellow human being to be totally alone and lonely, in big cities or in the company of thousands of people. Alone, but not lonely, each mile has a goal, a purpose and a direction.
This is living on edge. Time and time again, I remember our crewman Willie on the maxi we sailed with in the Whitbread Around the World Race many years ago. Unexpectedly and in an instant, he was gone overboard. A sagging spinnaker line caught him off guard and swept him over. In my view it is healthy to keep reminding myself of this and always be on high alert, be fearful and be ready to expected the unexpected.
Moving fast in the big seas we quickly lost sight of our man - despite moving fast, slashing sheets, spinnaker lost to the ocean and a rounding up. One of 16 on board I will never forget the emotions. The friend and companion just gone.
And it was the Albatross' who literally saved his life. And now I look astern and see some Albatross hovering.
They are the most extraordinary bird. They can fly over 1,000 kilometers in a day and generally follow anything that moves in the Southern Ocean. This is one of the few places they are found. The wingspans of the great albatrosses are the largest of any bird, exceeding 340 cm (11.2 ft), and gliding with the prevailing winds regularily fly around the bottom of the world
The wings are stiff and cambered and their dynamic soaring of albatrosses is inspiring to airplane designers: German aerospace engineer Johannes Traugott and colleagues have charted the albatross's nuanced flight pattern and are looking for ways to apply this to aircraft, especially in the area of drones and unmarked aircraft.
Anyway, instead of following our maxi yacht a group of Albatrosses broke off and hovered over our Willie as he bobbed in the ocean. Otherwise it could have been much longer before we got him back on board. As it happens he had reached a state of torpor. First you shiver and then it is hypothermia and your eyes glaze over into torpor, the final stage before death.
This was a close call and emotionally draining as we brought our crew mate back and thought me a valuable lesson.
And the Albatrosses hovered all the time. And the more I researched this sea bird the more fascinating it became. They usually partner for life and seldom 'divorce' and most live for over 50 years and delay breeding for longer, have a long courtship process and invest more effort into fewer young.
One named Wisdom that was ringed in 1956 as a mature adult and hatched another chick in February 2017, making her at least 66 years old. She is the oldest confirmed wild bird as well as the oldest banded bird in the world. Above all they need vast space. Perhaps we have something in common?
I am a wave of the sea
And the foam of the wave
And the wind of the foam
And the wings of the wind
CROSSING the international dateline was a long time coming.
Then, in an instant, it happened.
The GPS went from 179, 59.999 W - to peak for a second at 180 E (or W?) - and my the long countdown to finish has begun. It was an emotional unreal moment. It took me back to the future. What was Sunday 28th, became Saturday 27th!
And sure what is time? It stretches in my mind from Albert Einstein's theory of relativity to my inability to understand the concept of infinity. Imagine ( Project Imagine? ) for ever and ever. Eternity, space and the universe unlimited. The 'holy grail' of mankind is to grasp and understand what it is.
I cannot grasp it. It defies logic, there is no logic to the logic. It is beyond imagination. To imagine what we cannot imagine? Is that not the abstract of God? (If not, I'm sure he'd have something to say about it)
And, as George W Bush would say ' An unknown, unknown ' ( as distinctfrom the 'known unknowns')
Anyway, its really great to be underway. Sailing around the Kiwi coast to Auckland and back South again was an ambitious 2,000 miles. However we did it. It was an adventure all of its own. The boat was proven and our shore side exchange with the Spirit of Adventure and Atlantic youth Trusts was a great success And separately the first ever Irish Pubs New Zealand Gathering was historic - while the Maori Blessing and send-off was symbolic and had a spirituality.
To represent Le Souffle du Nord and Kilcullen Team Ireland is an honour to finish both respective missions. Its also a big responsibility. When I look ahead to the enormity of the Pacific Ocean it does not feel real - but it is - in the humble context of time and relativity above, what is it.
Now I am all on my own. The first night it blew up to 30 knots and it was hard going. A massive adjustment and, the more I think about, the more anxious I have become over what lies ahead. Powering East and South its already cold and getting colder.
Covering over 400 miles in a day was good start. Or perhaps not since, it was 2 days! In fact it was approx 240 miles in the first 24 hours.
We have just passed between the Bounty Islands to the North and the Antipodes Islands to the South. The former seem like nothing more than a clump of rocks, the latter volcanic islands look interesting. The main island is an important UNSECO listed bird shelter about 20 k square. The highest point is Mount Galloway at 366 m
The island group was first charted in 1800 by Captain Henry Waterhouse. In 1803 Waterhouse's brother-in-law George Bass was granted a fishing monopoly for the area. Bass sailed from Sydney to the south that year and was never heard of again. However his information regarding the large population of fur-seals, led to a sealing boom in the islands in 1805 to 1807.
At one time eighty men were present; there was a battle between American and British-led gangs and a single cargo of more than 80,000 skins-one of the greatest ever shipped from Australasia-was on-sold in Canton for one pound sterling a skin, a multimillion-dollar return in modern terms. After 1807, sealing was occasional and cargoes small, no doubt because the animals had been all but exterminated.
A much later attempt to establish cattle on the islands was short-lived (as were the cattle). When the ship Spirit of the Dawn (with a crew of 16) foundered off the main island's coast in 1893, the eleven surviving crew spent nearly three months living as castaways on the island, living on raw muttonbirds, mussels and roots for 87 days before gaining the attention of the government steamer Hinemoa by a flag made from their sail The last wreck at the Antipodes was the yacht Totorore with the loss of two lives, Gerry Clark and Roger Sale, in June 1999. I guess they had no GPS!
And now leaving the Antipodes astern, sailing into the night of Saturday, (Sunday just a few miles behind) - as he wind gusts to 30 knots - I take from the words of Sean O'Casey, questioning what is the universe...
An' as it blowed an' blowed
I often look up into the the sky
An' asked myself the question.
What IS the Stars. What IS the Stars
Lat 40 22 North, 177 38 South
On board Le Souffle du Nord Kilcullen Team Ireland
MY BIGGEST personal challenge on leaving Auckland was surviving the Maori Blessing! Most of all was not wishing to be disrespectful, to take it seriously - together with our entire Le Soufffle du Nord Kilcullen Team Ireland delegation - we indeed were honoured.
It was deep and spiritual, reflecting the peoples close link with the elements and nature. New Zealand had taken us in, looked after us, and was now was sending us on our way. And the dramatic downpour and rain squall added to the occasion and ceremony - the rain soaked chief accepting that it - as a good 'omen` from the Gods
The 'us' being me and the boat - and French teammates Maxime Buoy, Pierre-Anton Tesson together with Peadar Gill and Nin O'Leary representing the Aran Islands and the Kingdom of Cork, respectively. The 'extras' for your humble single-hander are for our voyage to Dunedin. This is useful for preparations and safety around the New Zealand coast. From there they will cast their Maoiri blessed skipper adrift alone for France to 'unofficially' finish the Vendee.
Sailing out the Hauraki Gulf with the dramatic skyline of Auckland astern we had 30 to 35 knot gale force winds on the nose. However, with three reefs in the main and small J3 headsail we powered upwind.
That first night at sea was tough and the warm Summer was swiftly surplanted by the cold ocean. Its also difficult to transit from shore to life on the ocean wave. You are constantly rolling in every direction imagineable, bruising, banging and even the simplests of tasks take planning and agility. But thats the magic and the challenge of how our bodies can adapt and be taken from their sedentary settled ways....
It was then a difficult decision which route to take. Northabout or Southabout. In the end it was expediency, being prudent and safety factors that made decision - much and all as we would have wished to ' go over the top'.
And now, finishing this log, the sun is just making efforts to rise to the East. We have 24 knots of wind and are powering along at 15 knots approx. I have just had some sleep and once again I take from Samuel Beckett when he says.
'Perhaps my best years are gone...But I would not want them back, not with the fire that's in me now'