• Figure 8 Voyage 2.0 Part B

    Randall Reeves Took A break in Halifax to replenish supplies, fix some things and visit family and friends before pushing off for the next leg,
    which resumed on July 2nd. We catch up with Moli and Randall now:

    Eight months following wind and sea succeeded by one month tethered ashore. Neither seems real; in both cases, time has flown. This morning, Mo tugs gently at her anchor. She is happy enough here, as am I, but she knows we must move on. Much has been accomplished but not yet the goal. The whole of the north lies between us and a return.

    As is the case wherever Mo touches, here we have been the recipients of much kindness. Tony and Connie, Wayne, Rob, Sebastiaan and Rhiannon, Ben, Rich, John, Sandy and Hagen are just a few of those who have helped to ready us for the next leg.

    In fact, Mo was ready yesterday, but her skipper was not. He chose to dally, futzing with this and that bit of stowage, and in the evening and after the rain ended, taking one last, long stroll to see the town and her fireworks.

    The dingy will come aboard after this note. And then we will be on our way to St John’s, on our way to the rest of the story…


    Dutch, an aluminum expedition boat sailed by my friends Sebastiaan and Rhiannon, meets Mo at the breakwater, and together we turn towards the sea. Dutch and family are out for a few weeks of summer cruising. Like Mo, they are headed north.

    The day is sunny. I am in shirtsleeves. The brisk wind off the land allows Mo six and seven knots. I commission the new Monte and shut down the autopilot. Suddenly Mo becomes a thing alive, a sweet sailing ship buoyed along by nothing but the elements.

    The two boats charge off, and Mo holds her own against Dutch until the wind softens. Now Sebastiaan unfurls an indigo blue reacher of stupendous size and rare beauty. Rather belatedly, I launch Mo’s white asymmetrical spinnaker, but the moment is past and Dutch is far ahead.

    In the afternoon, Sebastiaan eases shoreward for an anchorage, and Mo continues on towards her first night at sea in a month.

    We run gently along in the dark on the spinnaker and main. The sea is flat; the wind, so light, I can barely feel it against my face. There is Jupiter still in Scorpio to the south and to the north, the Big Dipper.

    In the afternoon, Sebastiaan eases shoreward for an anchorage, and Mo continues on towards her first night at sea in a month.

    We run gently along in the dark on the spinnaker and main. The sea is flat; the wind, so light, I can barely feel it against my face. There is Jupiter still in Scorpio to the south and to the north, the Big Dipper.


    July 4, 2019

    Day 239

    Noon Position: 45 18N 58 33W

    Course(t)/Speed(kts): ENE 5.5

    Wind(t/tws): WSW 11

    Sea(t/ft): WSW 3

    Sky: Clear

    10ths Cloud Cover: 0

    Bar(mb): 1014+, rising

    Cabin Temp(f): 66

    Water Temp(f): 49

    Relative Humidity(%): 59

    Sail: Twins poled out full, running

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 120

    Miles since departure: 31,472

    Leg To Saint John’s

    Day 2

    Miles 220

    Wind is light and variable but is mostly aft, and we’ve been running with the twin headsails for the better part of a day. Not a fast passage, this leg to St John’s, but it’s pleasant sailing.

    Except for certain, key equipment failures…

    I’ve been wrestling with Mo’s AIS system*–an essential tool for the singlehander–which made every sign of packing it in once we were at sea. In harbor, it passed pre-departure checks by picking up targets aplenty, likely with the aid of the Halifax Coast Guard Radio network. But once we escaped that umbrella, things got strange.

    First, my companion boat, Dutch, went off scope yesterday just as she turned for shore, a mere five miles to the northwest, and later a large racing sloop, Challenger, didn’t register until she was within a mile. Then a fishing boat went by with no target on the scope at all.

    I tore into the VHF cabinet, checking connections, swapping antennas–to no avail. I called Challenger on VHF as we both ghosted along the coast. No answer.

    Frustration. I need things that have functioned well for months to keep doing so. The work list is long enough already.

    That night I ran with the radar as my primary watch stander.

    On the next day, Mo and I began to pass through a loose fleet of fishing boats working the banks. Now I had a visual on four boats, though only one showed an AIS target. Again, I checked the system’s connections and then tested for signal strength and noise on the line. Nothing out of the ordinary.

    As the closest fishing boat made for port, I called on the radio. No answer. Then I called Halifax Coast Guard radio. No answer. (We were 25 miles off shore, so my expectations were low.)

    Then, “Moli this is Blaze of Glory.” Loud and clear.

    “Blaze of Glory, Moli.”

    “You wanted somethin?”

    “Yes, I’ve been troubleshooting my AIS system. Do you see me on your scope?”


    “Yep, there ya’re. A nice bingo. Four miles t’the east.”

    “Odd,” I say, “cause I don’t see you.”


    “Well, that could be cause I had the damned thing off.”

    That night we again ran on radar. Fewer than half the fishing boats we passed threw a target, presumably so as to stay invisible to the competition.

    Only today, at around noon, did I get confirmation that the AIS system aboard is working normally. We picked up our first ship of this passage on the scope, a strong target at 18 miles to the north.

    So, why the mixed signals over the last two days?

    For one thing, it’s clear that not everyone in the local fishing fleet cares to be seen. And for another, small vessels, like other sailboats, won’t have nearly the signal strength of a ship, making them harder for Mo to see.**

    But it is a relief to tick this problem off the list.

    *What is AIS? Short for Automatic Identification System, AIS transmits vessel type, position, speed, course, and other data over VHF radio frequencies, allowing any vessel with an AIS interface to see other vessels with AIS that are within his VHF range.

    **Considering that the VHF signal is line-of-sight and projected in a direction (mostly) perpendicular to the antenna, a small vessel moving in a seaway and/or heeled to the wind and with an antenna mounted close to the water (as is Mo’s) will have a much shorter signal range than that of a ship, whose antenna installation is high and whose platform is steady.


    July 5, 2019

    Day 240

    Noon Position: 45 57N 55 31W

    Course(t)/Speed(kts): ENE 5.5

    Wind(t/tws): NNW 7

    Sea(t/ft): NW 2

    Sky/10ths Covered: Clear/0

    Bar(mb): 1017+, steady

    Cabin Temp(f): 63

    Water Temp(f): 47

    Relative Humidity(%): 62

    Sail: Big genoa and main on a port reach; back on spinnaker by afternoon .

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 133

    Miles since departure: 31,605

    Leg Halifax to St John’s

    Days: 3

    Miles: 353

    Wind continues light, shifting from NNW to W and back again. As I type, we’re riding the spinnaker on a breeze of six knots just south of west. A beautiful sail, the spinnaker; it hangs in the air with the magic of a soap bubble; each moment one expects its delicate perfection to burst at the seams, and it does not.

    Light wind, warm sun, a flat sea. It’s a pleasant and relaxing run north. Except for the mechanical issues…

    Around midnight, the wind went so light I decided to motor for a few hours. As it does, the engine fired right up, but after the usual interval (about five seconds), the alternator failed to engage. Several starts later, the pattern continued.

    I have slowly come to realize that on a boat that gets such hard usage as Mo, not to mention water everywhere, a check of electrical connections should come first.

    The cables at the alternator were good and snug, as were the cables at the main engine switches, and all the fuses were intact. Sleepy and out of ideas, I let us motor toward St John’s without charge until morning.

    By then I recalled to check the connections on the charge regulator, an external device mounted in the engine room, and its relay switch. Though well out of the bilge, their location puts them in harms way on a ship whose mast has been known to dip a wave. This is why I was careful to slather the connections with dielectric grease in Hobart after the big Indian Ocean knockdowns.

    This care can only be chalked up to a failure of memory, for when I disconnected the relay, its pins appeared to have been bathed in salt water … and then ignored. I found no salve upon them whatever.

    Luckily, and with the help of my friend Kelton, I’d arranged from mid Atlantic for a new relay and new regulator to be added to Joanna’s suitcase of Halifax spares. I spent the morning cutting wire, pressing on connectors and torching heat-shrink. Ditto the regulator

    As it does, the engine started right up. And after the usual interval (about five seconds), so did the alternator.


    July 6, 2019

    Day 241

    Noon Position: 46 39N 53 01W

    Course(t)/Speed(kts): NE 6

    Wind(t/tws): E 4

    Sea(t/ft): —

    Sky/10ths Cover: Fog/10 (viz = 200ft)

    Bar(mb): 1013+, falling

    Cabin Temp(f): 68 (engine heater on)

    Water Temp(f): 46

    Relative Humidity(%): 52

    Magnetic Variation: -17.6

    Sail: Motoring

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 112

    Miles since departure: 31,717

    Leg to St. John’s

    Days: 4

    Miles: 465

    As we closed Cape Race, a heavy fog came down that ate up the wind. I reeled in a drippy spinnaker and started the engine at 0430. Already daylight was coming on. Over coffee, I set myself for a long shift in the pilot house.

    We were entering an area where icebergs could be found. And though the latest ice report was a far cry from the one we saw before our Halifax arrival–now there were fewer bergs per square degree than fingers on one hand–I still wanted to be cautious.

    By full light, visibility was below 200 feet, and it stayed that way all day.

    While I would have liked more wind, this part of the run provided a good test of systems rarely used on the first 237 days of the Figure 8; namely, the engine and the radar. Coming in along the Newfoundland coast was all instruments.

    Would we see our first ice today? Lack of visibility seemed to answer this in the negative. But would radar pick it up?

    That answer appeared to come in the early afternoon by an unmoving target to the NW. First ice of the Figure 8 seen…if not by eye.
    Newfoundland. A curious name. Not New Holland or New France or Nova Scotia or even Nova Albion. Not any of the names that in their statement lay claim to this or that piece of the new world. Newfoundland, rather, seems uttered in shock (What, here?) and suggests that, on first blush, the discovery was not deemed worthy of addition to the empire.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Figure 8 Voyage 2.0 started by Photoboy View original post