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Thread: Figure 8 Voyage 2.0

  1. #21
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    Mo has completed her circumnavigation in the Roaring 40s, including two consecutive roundings of Cape Horn. The circuit took 110 days and covered over 15,000 miles.

    As you saw if you followed on the tracker, I came in north of Diego Ramirez in strong wind, this after writing a blog post describing why that is a bad idea. I was right. More on that later.

    It’s late evening. The sun just set behind Cape Horn. And now we sail into the next chapter of the Figure 8 Voyage.

    PS. Two roundings of Cape Horn in one voyage. Has that been done before? I don’t know.


    A cold rain on the dodger pitter patting as I typed last night’s report. Wind in the teens from the south. Mo reaching at a respectable pace with her working jib and main. Then the boat laid over as if an elephant had landed gently on the masthead. The anemometer read 35 knots. No run up. No fitful gusting to serve as warning. One minute teens; then whoosh.

    The forecast had been wrong for days now, so much so I was beginning to worry it and I were out of sync. For three days, it told of a Force 7 southerly that never developed. Each day our position crossed a great stream of red feathers on the weather map, but our wind, the wind we were sailing, remained fickle and mostly light. That day’s forecast, retrieved just that hour, showed the low moving off to the north and Mo in clean air veering slowly from south to west overnight. Given the previous days, I should have expected this result. Clearly we’d not escaped the low’s inside edge after all.

    I dashed into foulies and harness, and all the while, wind remained high. On deck, Mo was stilI heeled way over and had rounded partially, rail sloshing with water, sails flogging. I gave a tug to Monte’s control line and quickly rolled two reefs in the working jib. Then I moved to the main. I thought to throw in a third reef, but thought again–a wind of 30 forward of the beam is a tough ask, and who knew where this one was going. I decided to douse the sail altogether.

    I unwrapped the halyard and began to lower away. Half way down, there was an odd jam. I climbed to the first rung of steps, but it was only a batten caught in the lazy jacks. Another ten feet, and a batten jammed in the cover; again, a short climb and easily freed. Because of the press of wind, each panel had to be hauled out of the sky by hand. It was slow work but finally done.

    At this point I realized I couldn’t feel my fingers. To my surprise, they were deathly white in the light of my headlamp. Rain had continued with the wind increase and was bitterly cold, colder than we’ve experienced on the voyage so far. But I hadn’t thought it could act so quickly. The main was all ahoo, but down, and Mo was under control, so I decided to go below and warm up. It took ten minutes to get feeling back.

    Cleaning up the main and lashing her to the boom for heavy weather required three more dashes below to warm up. It was just that cold.

    As a rule, I don’t wear gloves on deck. Only fingerless gloves give one the dexterity needed to do work, and I have two good pair, but I don’t like the loss of grip and feeling in my palms. The rails and other hand holds on Mo are slippery enough as it is; I want to be sure I feel what I’ve grabbed. But if this level of cold continues, I’ll need to rethink that strategy.

    By 2AM wind had dropped to twenty; by 4am, ten. But the day had worked me. I stayed in my bunk and did not move to make more sail until first light at 5AM.

    And that is a long-winded explanation for our day’s poor mileage.

    This morning, I found a small tear in the second panel of the working jib, only about an inch long, vertical. Winds were light enough early that I could drop the sail and apply some sail tape.

    Now another low is on us, but this one comes with blessedly west winds. And with it we fly toward the Cape.

    The next three photos show the progression of the front’s arrival. This took about three hours.
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  2. #22
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    Decision Made: Drogue Deployed

    May 24, 2019

    Day 231

    Noon Position: 36 45N 60 57W

    Course(t)/Speed(kts): NW 6 – 7

    Wind(t/tws): SSW 20+

    Sea(t/ft): SW 8 – 10

    Sky: Low cumulus; frontal clouds

    10ths Cloud Cover: 10

    Bar(mb): 1014+, falling 2mb per 2 hours

    Sail: Triple reefed #2, triple reefed main, reaching on port

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 89

    4pm. Wind is increasing. The sky grows darker under scudding cloud. Seas are stacking up. And the barometer is still falling 2mb every two hours. I recall what David Burch says in Modern Marine Weather, that a drop of 2mb over three hours implies a strong blow coming.

    I’ve made as much precious northing as I dare on the low’s SW winds, and as the day wears on, the scene becomes more intense than my read of the weather suggested.

    I could try to sail the coming NW winds, due to be 35 knots by forecast, out and down, but unless I can take them on the beam, I’ll be headed back to the S for two days. And into a head sea of unknown size.

    So, I decide to stop the boat and stream the drogue before nightfall. The boat should be plenty safe on the Jordan Series Drogue and I’ll preserve hard won northing.

    The JSD is a marvel; it’s also a monster to handle; thus the desire to drop it while there’s light. And by 5pm it’s out; Mo is stern to the seas and tugging powerfully at the bridle.

    There is some risk in this strategy. Strong winds will go from SW to NW over about twelve hours. How will Mo handle the confused seas that will produce? And the wild card is current. The Pilot Charts suggest there’s not much of any Gulf Stream action here. But the seas are big and have a somewhat “unnatural” appearance. Mo is also making 4 knots to the NW on drogue when 2 knots is more the expected.


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  3. #23
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    Doing Dental Work While Riding a Mechanical Bull.

    May 25, 2019

    Day 232

    Noon Position: 37 08N 60 26W

    Course(t)/Speed(kts): SE on drogue, 2-3 knots

    Wind(t/tws): NNW 30+ (40 in the afternoon)

    Sea(t/ft): NW 12+

    Sky: Heavy overcast

    10ths Cloud Cover: 10

    Bar(mb): 1007, rising slowly (1004 was the low point)

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 34

    Overnight, wind veers into the W and diminishes to 20 knots. I get some sleep, but Mo jumps like a startled hare on these seas, and staying wedged into my bunk is a game I lose once an hour.

    By dawn wind has swung into the NW and is blowing 20 – 30 knots. On the chart plotter, Mo has passed through a perfect U-shaped course since I streamed the drogue and is now headed slowly SE. And I am relieved at the sea state, which appears to have suppressed all of the expected SW component during the night.

    The NW wave train grows rapidly during the day as does the wind’s increase. By afternoon, its blowing 40 and seas are as large and steep as anything I’ve seen in the south. Crashers over the stern regularly.

    Mo is buttoned up tight. Her running backs are set hard; the main is lashed to the boom and the boom is lashed to its crutch; lines are coiled down firmly, hatches are locked. On deck, the boat looks comfortable, riding easily on a vast plane of mountainous heavers.

    But below is a chaos of motion and noise. I am repeatedly thrown. Sometimes when Mo falls off the backside of a wave, I go slightly airborne. Cupboards knock and bang, even though their contents are cushioned with wool socks and fleece. I try to write, then read. Then I give up and nap. Boat movement is too intense for anything but sleep.

    By afternoon, seas tower over the boat and are breaking heavily, and Mo has taken a few of them square on the stern. But while in my bunk and attempting an essay by Jack London on Dana’s *Two Years before the Mast*, I feel a collision as if the boat has hit a wall. Then a grinding sound.

    It takes a few moments to don foulies, but once on deck I see that Monte’s water paddle, lashed in the upright position so as not to catch the drogue bridle, is gone. From the stern, I see the torn lashing, and the paddle, though still attached, is mangled and dangling in the water. The wave has broken fully over the boat, lifted the drogue bridle up and over the secured water paddle, and ripped it down as the line came under load again.

    The pinion gears have also been stripped out of alignment, and most amazingly, the frame is bent upwards by at least two inches on the starboard side. Though it freed by the time I got to it, the grinding I heard must have been the bridle continuing to pull at the Monitor assembly. This last revelation takes some time to see and is a shock. A damaged water paddle is like a parted shoe lace; a bent frame is a wreck of a different order.

    I spend the next four hours working to get the paddle and the swinging pendulum off the frame. The quick release mechanism for the paddle is jammed and the paddle is broken free of the pendulum by swinging it back and forth at the bend until the metal fails. Removing the pendulum is much more challenging, as its main connecting pin has been jammed in its socket when the frame bent. Using a large hammer and dowel I finally get it pushed all the way toward the bow, only to recall that that is the wrong direction because it butts up against Mo’s gunwale before it is fully extracted.

    Now the pin is stuck half out and the pendulum is dangling but not free. Once during this time, its lower, jagged edge catches on the drogue bridle, but luckily, within two waves it releases.

    This entire exercise is like trying to do dental work while riding a mechanical bull. I’m crouched with knees braced to the gunnel and am using one hand to work, two hands for brief seconds. Often I have to abandon the job and jump up into the radar arch frame to avoid a gusher. I don’t know what to do, but, bottom line, the pendulum has to come off to avoid further damage to Monte and possible damage to the drogue.

    I can hacksaw the pin, a one-inch stainless steel rod, or I can cut a small hole in the gunnel and continue drawing the pin forward. I opt for the latter, aluminium being the softer metal. Within five minutes I have the pendulum in hand.

    Overnight I can hear from the lowering whine in the rigging that the wind is backig off. By morning, sun, but still, a ragged sea. I plan to be underway by autopilot by noon. Monte may be repairable, but it will take some time to rebuild the pendulum and pinion, and installation will take a much tamer sea.

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  4. #24
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    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.

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  5. #25
    I was wondering what happened with Moli.

    Thanks for the update!

  6. #26
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    Mo Clears The Ice Field

    Just a quick note to report that Mo is through the ice and sailing fast on a N wind for Cambridge Bay, 235 miles SW.

    I have been pushing to get to Alioth’s position for two days. She has a busted gear box and can’t make more than three knots under power. She has been hove to at the head of our last major ice plug waiting for an escort as she’d have to sail through, a tricky business.

    We’ve all been sweating bullets over this last 30 miles of ice, and for four days I’ve been underway and hand steering for 18 to 20 hours a day through 3 – 5/10ths ice to get here. Only a few hours sleep a night this last week.

    As it turns out, today was a piece of cake. We saw huge ice floes the size of city blocks but with wide lanes in between. Alioth and another boat, Mandregore, sailed downwind without trouble with Mo bringing up the rear under power just in case.

    We got underway at 2pm and by 6:30pm we were in open water.

    One big chapter in the Figure 8 is closed. One long chapter, the 4,000 mile slog home, remains.

    Huge thanks to Victor Wejer, our ice guide, for his help and tough-love encouragement these last days. Victor was awake and communicating at all hours of the day–weather in the morning, ice charts in the afternoon and pep talks at 3am. It was a great pleasure to have Victor at my back!

    The story will out and so will lots of photos but not today. Today, a beer and some sleep while Mo flies S toward Clarence Islands and around the last ice tongue; then we gybe SW for Cambridge Bay and onward toward home!
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  7. #27
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    Navigating The Northern Passage

    Aug 16th
    Underway from Graham Harbor

    All day the sea birds are flying the other way. They are headed out of the ice maze, out into Lancaster, back into Baffin and south. Winter migration has begun. All the while, Mo pushes further into the heart of it.

    Last evening’s ice charts show improved conditions. Above Bellot, the ice is about 3/10ths for long stretches, but below there’s still a tongue of 7/10ths above Tasmania Islands.

    And then there’s the difference between the report and actual. Alioth is a day ahead of Mo by now, and Vincent reports, “We just spent 12 hours finding our way through at times very dense ice (probably 5/10ths) from Hummock Point to Hurditch Peninsula.” I measure it off: 12 hours to go 40 miles.

    “You must consider to sleep in 20-minute shifts for every four hours of steering,” wrote Vincent. “Keep moving. The sun also shines below Bellot Strait.”

    At midnight that shining sun is still above the horizon, but I am pooped. We’ve been underway from Graham for 20 hours, and there is always a white chunk or two on the horizon; now an hour in the bunk is too long. Given the difficulties of the next 150 miles, I decide to take one last, long sleep.

    Off Cape Swansea at the top of Peel Sound, I heave to and shut down the engine. Mo drifts slowly N. I crawl into the sleeping bag. But it is no good. I am up every hour. At 4am, I rise. By 5am we are underway for our engagement with the ice.

    Aug 17th
    Underway from Cape Swansea

    Clear and calm. As we motor hour after hour, each notation in the wind column of the log reads simply, zero. The sun is bright and warm. In the cockpit, temperatures are in the 50s. After breakfast, I set about chores. The fuel tanks are topped off from jerry cans, and at the transom, both the hydrogenerator and Monte’s water paddle are removed. Either could be damaged easily if we are nipped by ice.

    By 11am we are across Aston Bay and it has been open water. In any case, I don’t expect ice here.

    Noon, still open water.

    Half an hour later, we are moving through 2/10ths ice off of McClure Bay. I start hand steering. It is easy going. Though beautiful, the ice is rotten, the pieces are small and much eaten away. I weave Mo at full speed as I keep an eye forward for more.

    Only once do I screw up. I aim to pass between two small floes but fail to see the diagnostic light green between them. They are one floe connected by an underwater bridge. But it is too late. There is a clinking sound much like the jostling of ice cubes in a glass. Mo thunks. And the floes drift apart.

    Off Hummock point, ice thins out but two hours later I begin to see solid white on the horizon. The day’s mirage picks up this image and makes it look like a tidal wave of white rolling towards us. Now we are in it, solid 5/10ths ice. Still, with care and concentration I am always able to find a lane just when it is needed. We weave back and forth; I am pulling on the tiller as though it were the handle of an oar. It is exhilarating. And still we are at full speed.

    Ice goes thin then thick then thin again. Hours pass and I am still working the tiller.

    What has been heavy going begins to thin at 11pm. The water is clear enough that my course changes are mere nudges of the tiller. I play the dangerous game: how little can you change course; how close to the ice can you get? Only sometimes do I miss, proof being the thud on the hull and a smudge of black on the ice.

    Midnight. The sun is down. The aspect is of late evening. It is a struggle to see. Luckily now the floe is but odds and ends. I have been hand steering for nearly twelve hours and can feel the fatigue in my leaden eyes. My thighs feel shaky.

    In the dusk ahead I see a long, dark opening. There is white further on but it must be a whole ten minutes distant. I flip on the autopilot, drop below, and set the alarm for a five minute nap. I collapse against a bulkhead; am immediately asleep.

    On the fourth minute there is a heavy crashing sound. Mo shudders as if hitting a wall. She stops dead. The engine grids right down. I leap for the throttle and back her off and then look forward. There Mo and ice the size of a car are drifting as if dazed. But the ice block has been split in two.

    At 2am we are below the ice. Yes, there’s a bit here and there, but we’ve got past our first big plug. A sense of satisfaction. New territory, and we have managed. Maybe we can do this after all.

    On we sail south. On and on. Finally there is that cut into the land, False Strait. I ease Mo in and drop anchor at 6am. We’ve come 150 miles in 23 hours and passed our first of three ice gates. Bellot Strait is but one mile S. Below it begins Franklin Strait. Above is Peel. We are through Peel.

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  8. #28
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    A Chukchi Blow and Crossing the Arctic Circle / When In Nome....

    September 12, 2019

    Days at Sea: 283
    Days Since Departure: 348

    Noon Position: 66 54N 167 71W
    Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 7
    Wind(t/tws): E 25+
    Sea(t/ft): E10+, steep and breaking
    Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10
    Bar(mb): 995 and falling
    On-deck Temp(f): 51
    Cabin Temp(f): 57 (no heater today)
    Water Temp(f): 48
    Relative Humidity(%): 60
    Magnetic Variation: 8.3

    Sail: Triple reefed main and working jib, reach.

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 141
    Miles since departure: 36,020

    We had a fine sailing breeze after rounding Point Hope last night–full sail, wind abeam. But by 2am I was reefing and by dawn I had three reefs in everything and was all out of reefs. Mo flew, but it was hard work.

    The real story during this blow–the seas. The wind has been strong, but at 30 knots it’s been nothing to write home about, except for what it’s done to the water. The Coast Pilot reports that current here flows N at 1 – 2.5 knots over an uneven bottom that is shallow throughout the entire Chukchi. The wind overnight was mostly E but had a N component to it. Result: by mid-morning we were wrestling with vertical and crashing 10 – 12 foot seas on the beam.

    With water flying everywhere, I was glad I’d buttoned Mo up tight over these last two days.

    We’ve had plenty of practice with riding the edge of seas like these in the southern ocean. Sometimes down there the approaching low and our course were out of sync, and we’d have to ride the first phase of a 30 to 40 knot blaster with seas abeam, much bigger seas than these. You get used to judging what the boat can take; where her “tipping point” might be. Bottom line: as long as she’s moving fast, Mo is rock-solid, even when fully broadsided.

    That’s the rational brain talking by the way. The brain I live in isn’t so sanguine when Mo is T-boned by a Mac truck that puts her windows in the water. I’ve been biting my nails all day.

    Wind is easing now, but the current against has done us no such kindness.

    156 miles to Nome. Still 30 hours further on at this pace

    At 4:30pm local, Mo and Randall passed south of 66 34N at 168 06W and in so doing crossed the Arctic Circle. We are now officially out of the high north. What’s more, we have completed a Northwest Passage, which is defined by some as a route over Canada and Alaska from Arctic Circle to Arctic Circle.

    We entered the Arctic on July 27 and exited on September 12 for a passage length of 47 days and a sailing distance of 3,035 miles.

    This is Mo’s third Northwest Passage. Her first was as Asma with Clark Stede and Michelle Poncini in 1990, and her second was as Gjoa with Glenn and Ann Bainbridge in 2014/15. But this is her first solo run. Mine too.

    Mo makes her slow way against this implacable current and night drags on. A full moon, lights ashore glimmer across the glassy water. Two tankers appear as dark hulks on the horizon; they are anchored miles out and still only in 60 foot water. Even now tugs are ferrying their cargo of fuel to the town of Nome, which draws ever so reluctantly closer.

    Midnight. Into the fairway. Alioth has already radioed an invitation to raft alongside. “We have a group here; people want to see you,” says Vincent.

    I turn the corner and there, sandwiched between two dredgers, is silver Alioth and a crowd in the cockpit. There is clapping, a cheer for Mo. I nose in slowly. Hands reach out to catch the bow; other hands grab rails and lines and Mo is eased into place.

    The crew of Morgane, Mirabelle, Opal, and Alioth, all now Northwest Passage veterans, have seen Mo safely in, after which we repair to Alioth’s cabin for a toast and the the sharing of stories until 2am.

    September 14, 2019
    Nome, Alaska

    Mo makes her slow way against this implacable current and night drags on. A full moon, lights ashore glimmer across the glassy water. Two tankers appear as dark hulks on the horizon; they are anchored miles out and still only in 60 foot water. Even now tugs are ferrying their cargo of fuel to the town of Nome, which draws ever so reluctantly closer.

    Midnight. Into the fairway. Alioth has already radioed an invitation to raft alongside. “We have a group here; people want to see you,” says Vincent.

    I turn the corner and there, sandwiched between two dredgers, is silver Alioth and a crowd in the cockpit. There is clapping, a cheer for Mo. I nose in slowly. Hands reach out to catch the bow; other hands grab rails and lines and Mo is eased into place.

    The crew of Morgane, Mirabelle, Opal, and Alioth, all now Northwest Passage veterans, have seen Mo safely in, after which we repair to Alioth’s cabin for a toast and the the sharing of stories until 2am.

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  9. #29
    He's made it through the trickiest part, but the Aleutian Low can be dangerous this time of year.

    Good luck Randall!

  10. #30
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Molly On Final Approach


    October 5, 2019

    Days at Sea: 301
    Days Since Departure: 369

    Noon Position: 45 53N 130 56W
    Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 6
    Wind(t/tws): SExS 10+
    Sea(t/ft): SE 3
    Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast (but no rain) 10
    Bar(mb): 1027, rising slowly
    On-deck Temp(f): 66
    Cabin Temp(f): 70
    Water Temp(f): 62
    Relative Humidity(%): 73
    Magnetic Variation: 15.7

    Sail: Main and working jib, one reef (no need for speed in this direction); close reaching

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 128
    Miles since departure: 38,377

    The rain that fell lightly but without remission all yesterday and last night finally eased to a drizzle by breakfast and then dried up altogether before noon. However, the S wind we’ve had for two days shows no signs of following suit.

    By now we’ve run our easting down and are not in need of more. In fact, with a mere 250 miles remaining between Mo and the Oregon coast, I’m wondering if I should heave to. I’ve been on that coast. There are no all-weather hiding spots that are not also bar harbors, and of those there are few.

    Once, when sailing home from Alaska late in the year, I decided to harbor-hop the coast between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Francisco so as to avoid the embrace of early-season gales. Avoid the gales I did and most of the fine sailing days too, because the Coast Guard, who controls the harbor entrances, kept the harbors closed to “recreational” traffic at the slightest whiff of a swell form the W. “You can check in, but you can’t check out,” should have been the sign posted directly below “No Wake.”

    For weeks I was stuck in Grays Harbor, a fine place to stop for an afternoon of beach combing and an ice cream, but the one taffy shop and the one burger stand and the one gift shop lose their charm after three or four days, not to mention a fortnight. Newport was another prison on our way S. Admittedly, we did weather a substantial storm there, and the brew pub uphill from the marina was an improvement over taffy and burgers, but they were hardly home.

    I recall planning an escape. Well before dawn, I put out to sea thinking that at that hour the Coasties in such a small town would surely would be asleep, but I had barely begun to reach the steep and crashing bar when I heard a siren from astern, and soon I was escorted back into the harbor with a reprimand from the Commandant.

    Murre, the little ketch I was sailing then, didn’t make it home until Thanksgiving that year.

    It is an odd final few miles. First a whimper and then a bang. The whimper will come later tonight when, per the forecast, we run smack into a ridge of calm lasting a day. The bang will be the northerly gale, winds to 35 plus, I expect on our last two day’s run to Drakes Bay.

    The fates, it seems, have a sense of humor and a taste for surprises.


    October 4, 2019

    Days at Sea: 300
    Days Since Departure: 369

    Noon Position: 45 14N 133 55W
    Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 6-7
    Wind(t/tws): S 15+
    Sea(t/ft): S4, NW4
    Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10
    Bar(mb): 1021
    On-deck Temp(f): 65
    Cabin Temp(f): 67
    Water Temp(f): 62
    Relative Humidity(%): 68
    Magnetic Variation: 15.8

    Sail: Double reefed main and jib. Nice easy close reach.

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 131
    Miles since departure: 38,249

    A year ago today Mo and I departed Drakes Bay and headed S toward Cape Horn.

    Today we are 700 miles NW of Drakes Bay and close reaching into an autumn southerly. Winds yet lack that hard edge of winter and they are warm. The sea is small and Mo makes her speed without pounding.

    All day I sat by the lee window and wondered what I should think of all these miles under the keel. So much water. Almost a year of perpetual motion. Only to return to where we started. Without a hold full of gold. And not feeling that much wiser.

    But satisfied. Is that what this was about?

    Though not fully, not yet. Now is not quite the time for reverie. A very stiff wind off the coast next Tuesday/Wednesday may make that final approach tricky.

    Better to stay focused. After the anchor is dug in, then philosophy. For now, sail.

    Overnight we drifted on the remains of the northwesterly. While I slept, wind held to its quadrant and kindly did not back to the S until first light. I even got the first cup of coffee down before having to take the deck.

    The shift from running to reaching required a full change. Roll up headsails, down and stow poles, make up pole lines (there are eight), move sheets to on-the-wind positions, swap running backs, let out reefs in main and haul away, unroll working jib, make up cockpit lines, adjust sheets, adjust Monte.

    Breakfast well earned. A bear claw and a bowl of oats.

    The sky brightened as the day came on, not with a clearing to blue but less cloud and a disk of sun smokey white. But it has thickened throughout the day and grown dark. Rain now and for the last two hours. If anything, wind seems to be diminishing and backing into the E. Time to don foulies and let out reefs.


    October 2, 2019

    Days at Sea: 298
    Days Since Departure: 367

    Noon Position: 47 12N 140 03W
    Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 7
    Wind(t/tws): WNW 20+
    Sea(t/ft): W 10
    Sky/10ths Cover: Cumulus tending toward squalls 5
    Bar(mb): 1022, steady
    On-deck Temp(f): 62
    Cabin Temp(f): 67
    Water Temp(f): 60
    Relative Humidity(%): 63
    Magnetic Variation: 15.7

    Sail: Twins poled out, 3 reefs

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 160
    Miles since departure: 37,961

    Randall: Hey Monte, have you heard this one? “A guy walks into a bar…”

    Monte (perspiring at the tiller and concentrating hard): SENIOR! PLEASE!, if this is no an hemergenthia, then the god of wind and waves and your pilot appreciate you talking only when necessary.

    It’s been a challenging day for Monte. Winds are fast and the sea is high. Holding a course is real work, and even with three reefs, the bow is being tugged around a bit too much.

    But I want the speed more than balance. Two days of 160 miles or better. Now that’s something. And too, if we can keep up such mileage, we may scoot just far enough E to miss the hard edge of the coming low.

    The afternoon gets strange, though. Yesterday squalls built up after lunch such that I had to be on watch as their racing winds approached. Every hour I’d roll in sail and roll it back out again when the sky cleared. Luckily, when their heat source went down below the horizon, the squalls melted away and we had a quiet night.

    This afternoon, the squalls have taken over the sky. They are heavy and dark, and an hour after sunset they are still crawling up Mo’s skirts. I’ve stayed in foulies. It may be some time before I can relax.

    ************************************************** ******

    October 1, 2019

    Days at Sea: 297
    Days Since Departure: 366

    Noon Position: 48 29N 143 35W
    Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 8
    Wind(t/tws): W 25+
    Sea(t/ft): W 8 – 10
    Sky/10ths Cover: Cumulus/squalls 4
    Bar(mb): 1019
    On-deck Temp(f): 59
    Cabin Temp(f): 66
    Water Temp(f): 58
    Relative Humidity(%): 66
    Magnetic Variation: 15.4

    Sail: Triple reef in main, out to port, triple reef in working headsail poled to starboard.

    Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 167
    Miles since departure: 37,801

    Overnight, wind veered WNW and hardened to 25 knots. I slipped a third reef in the main and hauled the jib sheet tight and left wind on the starboard quarter all night.

    Stars. The Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Arcturus. In the wee hours, Orion. “Stars,” I said, “stars!” We had not seen them in so long, the word felt foreign.

    In the morning, I poled out the jib to starboard, tucked in three reefs and we flew at 7 and 8 knots. Towering, cathedralesque cumulus, obsidian water; seas whose break was almost too white to look at. Black footed Albatross. And Mo on a bobsled ride.

    Today 48 North is very like 47 South.

    And the strategy is much the same now as well. In the south, the goal was to surf the top of passing lows. Here we are riding the bottom of a low whose center is near Homer, Alaska. We are way out on the perimeter of this spinning giant; the barometer reads 1019 mbs, but the winds here are fast.

    For days I’ve been targeting a region of 25+ knot winds whose angle would slingshot Mo directly homeward. The goal is to embed inside the low and ride it until it disappears over the horizon or fades. Current forecasts say we may ride it until Friday.

    Grand, but not quite long enough…

    This afternoon, squalls. Now we are running with the twins poled out. Winds are up and down. I’m rolling in and rolling out as the thunderheads roll over us. Rain. Hail. But who am I to complain? As the sun sets, twenty black footed albatross swing around the boat, around and around, until I lose them in the dark.

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