MOVING south east, we are not getting the 25 knots hoped for to slip us fast below the 'pack'. However I did trim my beard and we have had a steady 6 to 19 knots this past 24 hours. Being almost downwind, it is not good, since we need an angle of at least 135 degrees to keep speed at its optimum.
This has pulled us more north than planned where the pressure is less. The big tactical decision now is when or if to gybe back down for a short-term loss and possible long term gain. Ideally to be done on a wind shift.
Again, its been very busy day on board. Time flies and the mind wanders. Inanimate objects start to take on their own personality. For example, rope. This boat is full of it. Different strengths, uses, materials and pliability.
With 62 different control lines, all coming back into the cockpit, unless constantly coiled, sorted and managed - when the manure hits the fan - and indeed it does from time to time - the chaos needs to be organized!!
Each rope takes on a personality. All are 'card carrying' members of (SARA) South Atlantic Residents Association. Some are a pleasure to coil, work with and handle, while others are difficult, kink and always seem to get in a knot. A reflection of life?
The green furling line for the enormous A3 downwind sail comes to mind. It always seems to get in a mess and the furling gives endless trouble. By contrast the reef clew lines on the main always work well. Or the cute little lines "Lazy Jacks" that keep the runner secure. I talk to the ropes. Sometimes in jest and often in anger and some even answer back!
Moving from plant to animal life, each machine on the boat starts to take on a living personality. Higher levels of the universe. The self-steering system is called Molly Malone.
Molly sever complains, hardly ever stops - except in extreme conditions - and most days she simply get on with it. I talk to her all the time and Molly is great company, works hard and I find her reliable.
The two hydro generators, or the 'terrible twins 'as I call them. They are contrary. Also, while they look identical, one churns out twice the electricity charge as the other.
And so on with all the equipment on the boat.
Mind you, the one piece of equipment (for the lack of a better word) the boat lacks is a mirror. Or, if there is one, it cannot be seen. Indeed, unlike girls, men seldom spend time contemplating themselves in a mirror (is this a sexist comment?).
Perhaps the symbol of manliness should be an inverse relationship to the time spent looking at oneself in the mirror?
Anyway, today when it came to trimming my beard - for a video Log to send to my sponsors BIOLINE for their Conference, the mirror for execution was a real problem. Regardless my lady commandant, prefers short beards, as I do - Number 2 to be precise.
And it is for these reasons, today's video Log shows me trimming the beard. The camera became a substitute for a mirror - so while at it why not log it? - and I was able to perform the act using the screen as my mirror.
Therefore camera, camera on the wall who is the prettiest of them all.most definitely not the Skipper of the Kilcullen Voyager, happy out with a newly trimmed beard.
Slainte and thanks again for your interest from the Southern Ocean, on behalf of SARA.
Lat 32 32 S
Long 22 29 W
Log Day 23 - some months later one of the kidnapper's wives, delivered him a daughter, who was promptly named Jennifer!! Only in Ireland.
What a difference a day makes! Early AM after 2 days on the wind, getting colder, I finally and with reluctance, got into my thermals. Bracing for the cold and, like the good boy scout's motto "Be Prepared."
And then by mid-day I was naked to the waist making the 380 turns of the winch grinder - the amount necessary to shake the reef out of the mainsail.
The wind moved more to the north, below 10 knots for a time and we had a marvelous day sailing - one of those where it was good to be alive - reaching South and East - getting closer to the Antarctic and the cold - like Turkeys voting for Christmas.
What is also interesting is that the group of 10 teams East and North are moving slowly and having difficulty getting south. All going well, shortly a low pressure system will come in from the west and we will ride the top of it in 25 knot winds plus - Cape of Good Hope here we come...
One wonders where time goes, between work in the 'office' and constant boat work, the days just disappear. I am overworked but happy. So much so that my SARA (South Atlantic Residents Association) Union 'Shop-Stewart' lodged a complaint because of my 25: 8 work schedules - instead of the normal 24: 7!!
Via a live TV link in Paris, I was reconnected with Robin Knox Johnson a race commentator who gave good advice. It is one of the many chat shows built around the race - indeed people watching and tracking each boat often know more about whats going on than the unfortunate skippers do so it was interesting to listen to the commentators.
I last sailed with Robin in a successful Round Ireland run on his then catamaran British Airways. The trip hit world headlines because Jenny Guinness joined us to our surprise. It was planned, however because she was kidnapped, we assumed that she would abort.. Then to our surprise, just a few days after being released by her kidnappers she joined us on the record trip.
The cabin of Kilcullen was about the area Jenny had to live in with her captors for some time, until she was found, A born survivor, she made friends with the small time criminals - so that they would not kill or hurt her - then some months later one of the kidnapper's wives, delivered him a daughter, who was promptly named Jennifer!! Only in Ireland.
And on the subject of babies, my 'big' sister Pauline's Nicola delivered recently a baby boy, Jamie. Congrats are in order. Indeed our families keep expanding, and a celebration at how great the Irish are at making babies? Any idea why?
Meanwhile Pauline was complimentary about this almost Daily Voyage LOG. I thank her for this and am pleasantly surprised that someone actually reads this 'guff' from a demented sailor boy. It's 10 minutes short of midnight, time to conclude, trim the sails take nap and then to launch into 29th November.
It is an important day for my daughter Saoirse - her birthday. While meaning 'Freedom' in English, Saoirse was the first Irish boat to circumnavigate the world, with the countries new flag in the 1920s, skippered by Conor O'Brien - a Limerick man no less. Happy birthday Saoirse.
lAT S 31 32.6
lONG W 27 56.1
IT WAS like a sudden 'wake-up' call when the anticipated wind shift came in. From 9 knots of warm north westerly to a chilling south easterly at 20 knots. The sea was angry - and thus - Day 21 started.
No more South Atlantic Residents Association 'gentle' debates. Now was a call to 'Arms' the banging and rattling of the carbon boat was once again like being tumbled around in a washing machine. While capable, these IMOCA 60s are not designed to go upwind.
This part 48 hours we on a deep dive straight south. Having negotiated through the permanent cold front coming across from Brazil or the SAZC, we have now headed west of the bunch and the hope is to get down the ice zone and Roaring Forties pronto, a calculated risk.
Another 'wake up' was an unexpected landfall in the middle of the ocean. We almost ran into the Brazilian Atlantic Islands, "Ilas Martin Vaz" 600 miles off the coast. I passed within 2 miles of Ilas da Trinade, the largest at 620 meters high and 10 sq. km - majestic rising out of the skyline.
I never knew they existed - and a surprise, only visible when you enlarge the electronic charts. Regardless they look spectacular, little known and another destination to put on the 'bucket list' when I have more time. That's the bizarre thing about a race like this around the Planet - so many wonderful places to stop for 'lunch' and there is no time!
The boat is working 24/7, or 24/8. You must be constantly have to be on the alert for wear and tear. When it all works its brilliant, however when it goes wrong its usually big because of the scale and the loads involved.
This morning on a routine "residence association 'stroll' around the foredeck I saw the Blast Reacher roller furling line as if it was almost about to break from chafe. If so, the entire sail could unfurl in a blow, damage the sail and be a 'nightmare to get down. 20 minutes on the foredeck sorted that out.
During the afternoon, I opened the engine cover to discover the base of the engine almost flooded. The engine and electric pump did not work so it took me 40 minutes to get all the water out manually. Left unchecked within a few days we could have lost the engine and a valuable source to charge our batteries, complimenting the two hydro generators. I think the water is draining in from the waterballast tanks - another project to solve tomorrow.
Moving South each day you can feel the temperature drop, you can see the crisp sharp cold almost on the ocean rolling over the swell that is building. Often the forerunner of heavy weather, it is also a forerunner of the Roaring Forties where the sea literally rolls around the bottom of the world without interruption and icebergs.
Going into darkness of Day 20, we are now moving quick at 11 knots plus in 9.5 knots of breeze at an angle of 110 degrees. Its been a frustrating two days and, in desperation, I took to reading some poetry, having a go at the whistle and going to the movies.
AS TIME progresses you become much more at 'one 'with the boat, nature, the elements and even time. Governed not so much by any clock - rather when the sun rises, when it sets, the rhythm of the day and needs of the boat - oblivious to external forces.
Whether gybying, reefing, changing sail, navigating, cooking or just plain goofing off reading (isn't Kindle brilliant -thanks N) or watching a movie (or our on-board movie theatre has 150 of them) daily existence enters another dimension.
My humour also varies massively through the day and with little victories - such as finally getting the port hydrogenertator back working. Also with little wind and slow speed, tensions can be high. It becomes more relaxed as the wind pressure builds and we get moving until of course it becomes scary with too much wind. Never happy!!
An important part of regulating life on the ocean are the the daily meetings of the South Atlantic Residents Association. They are an erratic, unpredictable bunch. Some members have big egos, others can be humble, others brave. They have big personalities to manage and meeting can be very contentious. And did I mention the stupid ones? Here on board the Kilcullen Voyager I have to handle these personality types.
One member, for example in the pitch black of night, with no moon around, wanted to go on the foredeck and change sail from the blast Reacher to the A3 Asymmetrical spinnaker!! The more conservative element won out and we waited until dawn.
The entire weather situation and which route to take is a complex choice. The Ideal scenario is to move along the permanent cold front or SACZ . It reaches out across the South Atlantic from Brazil - low pressures run along it and tend to form close to Itajai - the ideal scenario is to move along between one of these 'lows' and the St Helena South Atlantic High. Over the next week it will be interesting to see how the scenarios pan out.
Meanwhile assuming we get through this 20th night at sea, we look forward to breakfast and porridge - mixed in with some of the Revive Active suppliments from Galway.
Another day, slow but solid progress south along the Brazilian coast. And also, gradually catching some boats ahead after my detours during the first 14 days - at least now we are holding our own - and psychologically I am pacing myself - somewhat nervous of the Southern Ocean ahead.
And the raid on the first-aid kit to solve the salt-sores issue on my humble posterior is having effect. Its now comfortable to sit here again at the nav station. Through the angled window, of this spaceship type capsule, the sky is alive with stars, few clouds and no moon.
Currently it is full main, J 2 headsail, 10.2 knots of wind speed, 11.6 knots boat speed and sailing at an angle of 98 degrees. The hydrogenator is pumping out 24 amps and I am consuming 15 amps with full lights blazing on deck before going to sleep for 2 hours.
Why? With economic uncertainty, Brexit, economic problems, housing crisis and hospital trollies, why am I away doing this lap of the Planet? Away from all the daily clutter and 'guff'. Why run such an event at all?
Some say its madness (and I'm inclined to agree) but that's just a convenient way to describe what we can't describe or something we do not or cannot understand - such as the concept of infinity?
Anyway, this question about the Race, was best articulated by a French socialist politician representing the Vendee region. He was rationalizing why his local Government office were sponsoring the event.
"It's a celebration of the environment, the elements, life itself andman taking on the odds", says he, as he proceeded to fumble and dig into his wine and cheese at the cocktail reception. In Ireland he might be seen as a 'smoked salmon socialist'.
But we must move the cheese, cast a line, catch the salmon and dream, challenge ourselves, set targets - whatever they may be and go for it. Is to dream to do? Is a bad thought actually bad or a crime? Is to think to do?
It is paraphrasing from Thomas Moore, that today's Log ends
"I've often been told by learned shipmates
That wishing and the crime are one,
And Heaven punishes desires
As much as if the deed were done.
"If wishing damns us, you and I
Are damned to all our heart's content
Come, then, at least we may enjoy
Some pleasures for our punishment
on the ocean wave.
And penultimately to conclude, this night at sea, sure someday we'll all be a long time dead. So do it, whatever it may be.
AFTER the Equator 'high' and a 'lively' discussion with King Neptune, it has been upwind sailing this past past two days. Hard. The wind should have been from the East, as for the earlier boats, and not South-East for the past two days - happily it has now reverted.
My shoulder injury is getting gradually better - though it still pains. My only other medical issue, if you could call it that, were salt-sores on my posterior from wet or damp clothes. A raid of the first-aid kit and some dry clothes are helping ease this discomfort.
Now romping along at almost 14 knots, in 17 knot wind we have started to move again. Powering along in the black of night, you simply never whats next - perhaps as Jim Wittaker said , "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." I feel a bit like that.
As an example, Its sad that Vincent Riou on PRB, the only previous winner, has dropped out. He is one of three in the last week - all experienced skippers and good boats. So, you never know, all I can do is to keep a level head, minimize risk and keep the boat in good shape. The rest is chance.
Having left Autumn, had Summer, now its Spring as we move straight south along the Brazilian coast - and while tempting to take the shortest straight line towards South Africa - conventional wisdom says stay West and position yourself between weather systems - getting south - as fast as possible to pick up the Roaring Forties - then its East for the next 15,000 miles.
MY BIGGEST problem today was a loud 'pop' as we crossed the Equator.
With a 15 knot cooling wind, we power reached accross the imagenery line at over 13 knots - 'Champagne Sailing' you might say.- however, in my enthusuiasm, the cork popped clear of the Kilcullen,, thus complicating matters in my 'Frist World' problem of the day.
The master strategy was to place a note in the bottle with a request for safe passage from King Neptune. There would also be a, 50 euro note - as a sort of encouragement to whoever finds the bottle to make contact - and another request to King Neptune for a safe voyage, through life, for Feile Roisin, my new grand daughter. At 12 pounds plus, she arrived, with considerable aplomp, late into the World over the weekend.
Regardless, we have enough boat building materials on board to find a way to seal the bottle - and sure who knows, in years to come, the bottle will show up somewhere....
On crossing the equator, I immediately convened a meeting of the South Atlantic Residents Associaitoin.
With just one member, it was not a big problem. However in true Brendan Behan tradition, the first item on the agenda of the Association was 'The split' and whether a North Atlantic Residence Asssoication member, no longer in residence, would be accpetable in the south.
IT was series of conversations between himself, myself and the other self, if you follow the drift - Such is the way that my mind entertains itself, ALONE. All this mental exercise goes on between the hard physical work of taking reefs in, shaking them out and sail changes - together with everything necessary to keep this 60 footer moving 24 hours a day.
Anyway, this adventure is also a geography class. Early in the morning we will be leaving the islands of Ferninda De Naronha to Starboard, some 500 miles off the Braxil coast.
It is here that fellow competitor, Frenchman Bernard de Broc is moored. Sadly, his hull is damaged and he decided not to risk the Southern Ocean and withdraw. Bernard was much talked about in France during a pevious race. That was when his tongue somehow got cut and, helped by a doctor on the phone, at sea he managed to sew it back together again!!!
Looking deeper, the islands are a UNESCO listed world nature reserve. You must get special permission to go there. From pictures, the secenary and beaches are amazing. There is an abundance of turtles and sea life and an ideal climate - definitely a place for the bucket list for the weekend or even a year? perhaps do a Robinson Cruisoe on it?..
It's black on deck. No moon. Now, we head towards the North West Coast of Brazil and veer south - each day - a little cooler than the last.
You might say that via Brazil is a roundabout way to get to South Africa - the Cape of Good Hope being the next 'turning mark' - however by gradully curving around, the plan, would be to navigate around the South Atlantic high - and dive south first to the Southern Ocean as soon as possible - to pick up the prevailing Westerlies in the Roaring Forties, Howling Fifties and for me porridge for breakfast.
LET KING NEPTUNE rule the oceans, as the Kilcullen and all aboard, prepare to cross the Equator.
And as I take delivery of my first granddaughter, I will ask the King to bless her, when we meet on the Line tomorrow.
AND LET the pensioners cast off their sticks and jump for joy in the streets - a new child has arrived to support them and make our world a better place. She is "Féile Roisin." At 12 pounds, good tonnage and less wetted surface area than the dagger-board model.
By that, congratulations to my daughter Roisin and husband Roger for delivering a sister for Arthur. My role has been zero, except of course introducing her to King Neptune.
Roisin had been long overdue - it has not been easy - and I understand mother and child are all well. Here on the ocean, emotions become more concentrated and 'boxed' as we work our way South over the Equator.
Being truthful, let alone a grandparent, I am not sure I am quite ready to be a parent. On return from this adventure, I will perhaps perhaps qualify. We live in hope, and that it will always triumph over reality.
Prematurely I had thought that we were clear of the Doldrums. However on Day 13, we once again found ourself becalmed for a few hours. And then suddenly, from nowhere a blustery small storm erupted from the North.
There was no warning, it lashed and dumped enough rain to fill Lough Corrib and we had 27 knot gusts. Then it was gone, as quickly as it came, and the 10 knot south easterly returned. There was no trace whatsoever of the storm on the weather map from my satellite, regardless we handled it well as I become more at one with the boat, an animal that needs minding and her constant demands.
Now on Day 14, quietly beating upwind working south - getting warmer and warmer - I am still suffering from staying too far to the East - but am now slowly getting back on track with the main fleet and, at least holding our own.
All going well, Day 15 will be Equator Day. Since time began, it seems that seafarers have been celebrating in whacky and wonderful ways, King Neptune. as they cross the equator. Hopefully from the man himself, we will learn more of this tomorrow.
Today there was a total change in the sky and ocean. It went from being overcast and stable to blue skys, then green ocean and turbulent squalls. Or, as James Joyce describes it in Ulysses "The scrotumtightening snot green sea".
One such squall caught me off-guard with its viciousness and strength..(*NB Big Toe)
The squall overpowered the self-steering and the boat broached on her side.The loads on the rig were enormous but forgiving - in releasing one sheet - by a near miss - it almost brought my hand with it. Every moment every day there are risks. As a self discipline, I keep having to force myself to stop, appraise and think of my body first before jumping into any situation. Being caught off guard is what gets you.
Anyway, such was the speed and severity of the squally with little warning, I reckoned there could be more damage done trying to get all sails down - and I knew it would not last - so I simply took the helm and drove off in front of it. For 15 or 20 minutes it roared, the rain lashed and the boat took off downwind - it was a great ride on the edge and exhilarating.
Eventually, like life itself, it ran out of steam. The wind once again dropped back to 10 knots from 30 knots. After that, for the entire day, the wind was up and down, also changing direction, to make for a very demanding snd physical day.
Happily though it is warm, we seem to have exited the doldrums and though now upwind we constantly make ground south towards the equator and the pace is unrelenting.
*NB Guidance from Aisling on damaged toes ( I think she thought it was worse than it is )
"Maybe if u can find something hard to tape around ur big toe. Little flat
plastic sticks to Splint it on both sides, protect it from constant little
knocks... like mini battens on front and back of toe...lols .. nerves from
big toe go right up to brain so can be quite an annoyace. If you tape ur 2nd
and 3rd toe together it can work as super toe and keep weight transfer in a
good alignment thru middle foot. (Big toe being the 1st toe can rest bit
more to recover, weight is directed to 2nd 3rd toe which is actually best
line for skeleton anyway... lots of Classical dancers and super models do
this as general practice.... not the splinting... the 2nd and 3rd toe
taping... I'm giving away trade secrets here so hope it helps ;"