December 2008 Vendee Globe Reports
1 December - Newswire report - Steve completes his penalty.
Steve White completed his 30-minute penalty yesterday evening at 20h04 UTC. Like several other competitors, he was given the penalty by the International Jury for passing a buoy on the wrong side shortly after the start from Les Sables d'Olonne. The penalty consisted of declaring a fixed position, sailing through it and then returning to the same position 30 minutes later. Ironically he has also dropped back two positions.
2 December - Newswire report - Fast and refreshed.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water): "It is lovely and warm during the day, cold at night, high cirrus clouds, 11-12 knots of breeze, full mainsail and spinnaker and just lashing a few things down before we get more wind later. "
"We are expecting sort of 30 knots or so, so that is a reasonable amount of wind. I enjoy 30-35-40 knots, wind behind the beam and it is great in this boat. I did a lot of sailing through the winter at home in England, Weymouth to Cherbourg in four hours door-to-door and things like that. I am used to it, quite comfortable with the boat, but it does get very, very, very wet on deck. That is the only thing."
White's maximum solo spell to date has been 22 days, which he now exceeds:
"The thing with the OSTAR and the Transat, is that I was always just getting into my groove and suddenly you are in Rhode Island. If I hadn't have had my family waiting for me I think I would have turned right around and headed home again. I am getting into my groove. A funny thing happened this morning, it was the first time I have been in my sleeping bag because it is colder, I woke up at seven o'clock and I woke up and felt absolutely as fresh as a daisy. It is the first time I have felt not tired in probably a year, and so I feel like I have gone over the threshold and am back to my old self and am quite happy."
5 December - Blog 10 - Why won't the boat steer.
It is difficult to believe how two days can start so differently; yesterday I couldn't sleep, usuallly a sign that I need to do something, which in this case was a sail change from spinnaker to gennaker - down a gear if you like. It was getting a bit marginal for the spinnaker, and so it was a job well done - boat speed up and the boat more stable, and hence a load off my nerves. As I finished, I watched the dawn come with surprising rapidity as it seems to down here.At first a finger's width of amber light across the Eastern horizon that swiftly began to illuminate the underneath of the clouds infront of it with every shade of red and purple; it was absolubtely stunning, and I stayed to watch it until the sun was up properly.
This morning, however, at about the same time, again unable to sleep I decided to change down to a Code 5, which is like a rolled up mini spinnaker for stronger winds, as the breeze was hitting 30 knots regularly. I went through the motions, rolled away the gennaker, took it down, bagged and stacked it at the back of the boat on deck, and as I was preparing the Code 5 there was a big bang that I felt through the boat - "Oh, we've hit something" I thought - not an unusual occurence if you sail in the English Chanel which is absolutely full of flotsam from shipping and rivers, and so I carred on and put up the sail, but when I unrolled it I could not get the boat to steer. Without further ado I rolled it up again, which is no mean feet in 30 knots of breeze, and looking over the back of the boat I convinced myself that the wash was different from the starboard rudder and the earlier collision had broken the tip off it. What went through my mind was pretty grim, the thoughts of coming so far to wind up in Cape Town to do a rudder repair or retire if I didn't have enough materials on board to fix it. At the very least I'd be re-starting at the back. I went all through the steering gear checking that the rudders hadn't been knocked out of alignment and everything seemed OK, so in desperation I gybed the boat with the ballast on the wrong side to get the rudder out of the water - it was OK! minus a big chunk of it's orange paint, but otherwise unscathed. So what was wrong with it, why wouldn't it steer? I put a second reef in and then - we were off with me feeling like a fool! The size of the swell and the increased breeze during the sail change just meant that the boat was going too slowly (ten knots) for the rudders to work, and I had heard the bang, put two and two together and made six! It's there in the Ladybird book of sailing on page three "If the steering doesn't work and the top guardwire is underwater, try putting in a reef!"
Suitably humiliated but much relieved, I unrolled the solent and had a stress free half an hour in bed before putting the Code 5 up and getting going again. The highest speed so far is twenty two point six knots by the GPS, but it is a bit nerve racking as with reduced mainsail the top of the mast wobbles about like nobodys business! I am assured that is OK, and it's still up at the moment I'm pleased to say!
Over the past few days I have been sitting here full dressed at the chart table waiting either to reduce sail, or for broaches or breakages, I have been pushing fairly hard with sails I don't know yet, and when you do try and sleep it is very shallow and not satisfying as you are a bit on the edge of your seat, so to speak, hence the fact that I have not written anything in the past few days, not because there hasn't been anything to talk about, because there has been much to report on other than just boat stuff.
I am now in albatross country - not the really big wandering variety, the ones that are regular visitors to me have a black back, but they are still pretty big. I have always rushed to see them when they go scooting by at a distance. You can see their wings flexing with the weight of their bodies as they make some pretty dramatic but effortless turns to skim the waters surface and then soar up for a look round. Their flexing wings gives me some confort regarding my flexing mast! When I had my snooze this morning I looked out of the door to see one looking in at me! He was flying behind the boat and having a good look inside, which was really quite someting for me.
The whole place is awash with birds, dozens of them at any one time. With the exception of some pigeon-like birds which are small and plump, all of the seabirds here are of the racing snake variety - pointy wings and streamlined bodies. There are none of your fish and chip eating seaside gulls here, they are all serious flying machines! There are some all blacky brown birds with clown's eyes painted on in white that fight and squabble amongst themselves, but there are numerous other types too. It also seems to be a haven for small squid, and there must be countless millions out there. This morning one was in the cockpit - I don't know how he got there. He was silver grey and about eight inches long. When I touched him he shrank back inside his mantle so only the ends of his tentacles were poking out and he looked very comical! He got sent back over the side. There were some others that had been washed into a rolled up sail at the back of the boat - one was no more, but the other two were OK and got put back over the side. They are obscure but beautiful creatures with their big eyes, but I'm not sure I'd like to meet a giant one though!
Anyway,the breeze is buiding again and I'm going to have to do something about my sails - late lunch again!
7 December - Newswire report - Learning the Southern Ocean.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water): " I am a Southern Ocean 'virgin' yes, and I have been thinking a lot about that. And when you read what people write about being down here, about them being conservative and what sails they have had up I think 'wow that really is conservative, what are they doing?' and now I am down here it is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. The swell is relentless, driving swell which is very, very much in charge, and it does things to the boat handling if you slow down and it drives your boat speed up and up and up. You just have to keep a handle on it, because anything that does go wrong could go very, very wrong. Hence the reason I am not really getting into bed very much, I am just always on standby ready to go on deck to reduce sail, and also to make sure that whatever is going through has gone before you put more sail up."
"The thing that is nerve racking is drawing that balance between preserving the boat and racing, that is the nerve racking thing."
"If you had said before the start that I would be in 18th - or whatever it is - and such and such would have been ahead and so and so behind - I would probably have been quite happy, but the thing with human nature is once you are in a position is you want to do better, and I have been stuck in 18th since Bernard overtook me and you get a bit itchy and want to start to overtake people and that is when it gets dangerous. We will get a bit nearer to the end and then push."
10 December - Blog 11 - The Code 5 story and mating weasels.
There has been some time passed since I wrote last time, but I have not been idle, that's for sure! If you remember I signed off last time about to do a sail change in a building breeze. I had to roll up and take down the Code 5 in what was by the time I got on deck about 35 knots of wind, which is over the limit for an old sail! This is a perfectly normal procedure, I started rolling the thing up but it got jammed half rolled up and half unrolled! There it was, flogging itself silly at the front of the boat. I went up the front to try and free it up, but the furling drum is right at the end of the bowsprit - I was not going out there I can assure you - there was a big sea and we were surfing at nearly twenty knots sometimes! I taped my big kitchen knife to the deckbrush handle and went up to deal with the problem, which was that the cover of the furling line had wrinkled up like Nora Batty's stockings inside the drum, got caught on a cunningly placed spike and wedged itself up very very tightly! Whilst hacking away I took my eye off the ball missed a big wave which we surfed down, and got hosed down the deck, knife in hand, as we buried the bow in the wave infront at high speed - everything went dark, there was a whooshing noise in my ears as they filled up, and I held my breath as water went down my neck right down to my boots, up my nose, up my arms, everywhere. I took some sizeable pieces out of my fingers as I tried to grab stanchions and guardwires on the way past - the force of the water was incredible and I still have the bruises to testify! When I came to a stop at the mast I had managed to keep hold of the knife luckily!
I had several goes at cutting away at the drum, rolling and unrolling the sail; I cut forty five metres of cover of the rest of the line with a pair of scissors on my hands an knees, and still it was up there, half in, half out and floging like nobody's business. After nearly three hours I decided it had to be dropped on deck as it was whilst I still had a mast! I sailed as far downwind as I dared without gybing, and went for it - first time I aborted and winched it up again before it went in he water, then second time I had it on an "inboard roll" of the boat - it was there on deck, coming down, coming down, then,outboard roll - whosh, over the side, in the water. The boat stopped short and rounded up into the wind with a parachute handbrake over the side. There followed another two hours of struggling as I tried to get the thing back onboard, but things were going badly wrong - bent stanchions, then the first rip, then around the keel - the stuff of nightmares. I finished up dragging the thing off the bowsprit after trying to save the boltrope for my poor old broken gennaker, but I couldn't get the thing out of the middle of the partially rolled sail. In the end I had to let the thing go before I had to get in the water and get it off the keel. I watched it sink. A twenty thousand pound sail lost because of a hundred pound piece of string with a loose cover. All I had left was the swivel and two thimbles and a ten inch piece of the head.........
I don't mind admitting that nearly killed me, I was fairly well beaten up and bruised, and soaked to the skin, and rapidly becoming cold. It was 1400 when I went on deck, and 1915 when I came back down. I put the heater on for the first time, stripped off, got change and ate two meals as I had missed lunch. The next day my elbow was back to square one, and I couldn't even lift the kettle of the stove. That day was pretty full on with the spinnaker up and down twice, the code 3 up and down twice, and the solent rolled and unrolled and reefs in and out several times. Luckily, Mike Golding had given me a spare furling drum, so I refitted and spliced up an old furling line on his drum. Interestingly he had modified his with an angle grinder to remove the offending spikes! That's where experience counts.
Today, I am back to what might be termed as "normal", and my elbow is pretty good again, although I am missing my code 5, which is the sail I need a lot of time at the moment. More good things have happend as well. Up on the foredeck I looked over the side to see a large shark wallowing on the surface, he dissappeared pretty quickly when we bore down on him about six feet away! He was dark blue and about six feet long. It's really strange to encounter animals in the wild that might eat you! The most dangerous animal you get in Dorset is a minke, hardly in the same league as a shark!
On the subject of animals, I have had two Albatross, now called Albert and Ross, who seem to be around for most of the day every day. Albert is an adult and Ross is a younger bird - he has mottled plumage and flaps perhaps more than neccessary. He is very curious though, any sign of activity on the foredeck and he is there, watching the black clad fool scampering around,and totally impervious to flapping sails or any other noises that must be totally alien to him - or perhaps not there are so many diferent round the world races these days he's probably saying "You don't want to do it like that, you want to do it like this!" "Furling line jammed up is it, Mich Des wouldn't have done it like that!". I also had a species new to science, (or to me anyway) , a kind of small albatross, a "minitross", that I am going to call White's Albatross. He was mostly smoke grey with a black beak and about three quaters the size of Albert. I will have to look them all up when I get home.
It is difficult to describe how big they are; when you get close they are huge, solid muscle across their backs, and about the size of a small child with wings. I tried filming them but they really move with such speed, and despite their size they dissappear behind the waves in a trice. To get them on film, up close, in focus, and for more that a millisecond is like trying to film two shy weasels mating in the dark - difficult! - not that I've ever tried that I must admit...........
19 December - Newswire report - Autopilot problems cause stress and slow progress.
Steve White has been having a rough time over the last 36 hours, battling pilot issues. He has spent periods near stopped today trying to sort them out, and appears to have done so.
" The pilot is giving me some grief - I either spend my time on the edge of my seat waiting to wipe out, or wiped out, boat on it's side, ballast the wrong side etc.......not good in 35 knots which is when it happened this morning. But, I think we've finally got to the bottom of it, just going to sail slowly so I can rest for an hour and wait for the sea state to die down, then I'll stop again as I commission both pilots, then I should get going again I hope." White reported this evening.
Check out the Audio Clips for Steve's full report on the problem.
20 December - Blog 12 - Why has he been so quiet?.
I had an e-mail from a friend a few days ago telling me I really should write more blogs - everyone else was doing more than me and I must keep them coming. I promised I would, but every time I thought I was going to be able to do one something happened; it has been pretty eventful here just recently as you will see.
It is old news now I suspect, but I experienced my first major Southern Ocean blow. It was at the time the most uncomfortable twenty four hours I had spent at sea. I was ready and waitng for it, batteries charged, lots of water made, gear stowed and the fourth reef prepared. I had the storm jib in the cockpit ready for use, and waited. The barometer dropped more quickly than I have ever seen, and then stopped. Then it blew. Not the most wind that I have ever been in by a long way, but still very strong - fifty seven knots at the height, and steadily over fifty for a long time. The sea state became very large very quickly, and then began to even and become regular just in time for the shift when it all went haywire again. It was pretty entertaining to gybe in a big cross sea and fifty knots, but I took my time and the boat behaved impeccably. On the other gybe the sea was suddenly much easier again, and we had some fantastic boatspeeds - twenty nine knots on the GPS on one surf as I sat clutching the chart table, holding on for dear life and wondering how it would end! The noise and motion are terrific at those speeds, more akin to a bobsled than a boat I would imagine as you sway and bang through what feels like a tube of water all around you, and the water comes down the deck with enough force to take your legs from underneath you and then fills the cockpit. Periodically I went on deck to have a look around and check everything, but also to observe the power of my environment which was breathtaking - mountainous seas the colour of lapis lazuli topped with brilliant white crests that were blowing off, towering up near the second spreaders, and occasionally the sun would shine turquoise through a wave crest just before it broke. Sometimes we would perch on top of a wave, and then drop down into the trough with the boat pointing down at an angle of about thirty degrees and plough straight into the one in front. The first time I saw it happen I thought we were going to pitchpole, but as always, up came the bow, solid bow wave down each side and over the deck, but always most importantly that bow came up as a Finot should, and it gave me even more confidence in the boat, it is a very seaworthy hull shape. Down here the seas are always large, and you are a long way away from home and help - that sense of isolation is tangible and adds to the suspense and the experience, which is what makes it different to a blow in the Atlantic or anywhere else I think - how you perceive it.
We had just got through that when I started having other troubles. I was trundling along quite happily when suddenly the pilot stopped working. I am used to that happening, because it has done it periodically for as long as I can recall - it did it in the Atlantic on the way down with a spinnaker up if you remember - anyway, it was doing it more regularly now, and in thirty to forty knots of breeze it was getting pretty un-funny! Each time the boat would stop steering but lock the helm, and crash tack, leaving you with the boat laid flat, pinned down by your sails and the water ballast on the wrong side, the boom held above you by the vang but waiting for the vang to break as it did the first time, and for the boom to come crashing across the boat with huge force into the runners, breaking the battens and possibly many other things too. Initially,switching the pilot off and on would get it going, but then I got error codes and things became more serious.
I think I had eight or ten wipe outs, and each time any loose gear would fly acrosss the cabin, I would fall out of bed or if I was up, my sleeping bag would go on the floor or once into the engine compartment, all of which are wet becaue of the various leaks. I would go on deck, take the weight off the vang with the mainsheet, put the new runner on, take the old one off, and then I could ease the main and bring the boat more upright, but up until that point the boat is on it's side with the top guardwires underwater at an angle of about fifty degrees! Then I would have to roll away the solent with a winch handle rather than the grinder because you can't use a grinder with the boat at that angle, which takes ages and is really hard work as the waves are lapping into the cockpit and you have to hold on with one hand, and also the sail is full of wind and you daren't let it flog. Then, when the boat is level (ish!), you can drain the ballast, put in the third reef and the boat will lie with the bow up into the waves slightly but rolling like a pig whilst you go and sort out the problem.
At the finish, I had replaced the port rudder reference unit, then re-wired the starboard ram all through the boat using the wires I stole from the wind generator, then I ran the port pilot with the starboard ram and rudder reference unit until that stopped working, whereupon I used the starboard ram and the new port rudder reference unit! Still it kept stopping though, and I would have to lie under the chart table joining little tiny wires, or be in a wet, cold lazerette wedged in a corner fiddling with the same small wires or trying to solder the heavy cables that feed the rams all with he boat rolling violently. I filled the cabin and the sink and covered the floor with black dust because I removed two of the hydraulic motors and serviced them in the galley!
The media centre phoned up at one point and asked would I be OK to do an interview. I was filthy dirty, wet, I had just burnt myself with the soldering iron, and was sailing towards India at three knots - I explained this and said no, and he said "Can we call you back in two minutes?" I explained that wasn't an option, try tomorrow! I was not happy......
After my final wipe out at about 0330 GMT yesterday, I got the boat going again but slowed right down as a front was coming through, and I just didn't want any more wipeouts with lots of sail up. When it calmed down I fitted a new autopilot control unit, a new rudder reference unit on the starboard side, put a resistor in the starboard instruments which fixed them and wired up everything as it was suposed to be, and recommissioned the pilots. The back-up pilot worked, and I steered with this for a couple of hours - hooray! The main, port pilot would not work, and it just said "NO PILOT" and I lost my rag in a minor way and nearly put my fist through the chart table as I had enough by this point. Then I remembered there was a cable I hadn't plugged in - I commissioned it and it hasn't missed a beat in nearly twenty four hours!
After a couple of proper meals and some sleep it all seems like a distant memory now. I think the tension of always waiting to wipe out coupled with the fear of what might break when you did, plus the several hours it took each time to get the boat going again really wore me down, but I'm OK now. The next blogs will come more regularly I promise!
25 December - Yacht Pals Comment - The DIY King.
The DIY king of this race, Steve White, has had his share of problems. His autopilot keeps giving out at the most inopportune moments, causing him to tack violently and sending everything flying across the cabin - repeatedly. With almost zero budget, Steve's become quite adept at fixing things, and it's likely that this is just another bump on the road to the finish. Of all the yachts in the fleet, the nearly Corinthian entry of Toe in the Water may inspire the most. Steve has shown that, if you believe in yourself, on your own boat and by the sweat of your brow, you can do it. - Visit Yacht Pals at www.yachtpals.com
25 December - Blog 13 - Steve's Christmas Blog.
As I sit and write this, listening to my Christmas CD, I can see on my starboard side white foam covering the backs of the waves as they go away from me, and to the port side a confused and heaped, untidy sea with haphazard waves left by the big wind shift we had last night, all a glorious deep blue under a bright sun. To windward there is a huge and ominous black cloud that looks like it will be trouble - we have already had a few squalls where the wind goes from thirty to fifty five knots quicker than you can count and suddenly I am not undercancvassed any more - the sea becomes a total white-out with sleet and rain and the boat charges off like a mad thing banging and crashing into the big cross sea at over twenty knots and threatening to shake the generator loose and rattle the teeth from your head. The barometer is as low as it can go but still falling, and I don't have a proper handle on the weather situation as it is very confused and complicated at the moment, and to top it alI I am really having to nurse the boat as the gooseneck pin which holds the boom to the deck has broken, and if I am not careful the boom will come off - that problem has finished a few people's races, but I am sure there is a way to repair it, just not at the moment - it's difficult enough to stand up - so all in all not ideal really, and not how I thought Christmas would be a couple of days ago.
Still, it will calm down and I will get the boom off and sort it out - nothing last for ever. Patrick the rigger kindly said he would check his e-mails over Christmas in case I had trouble, and about six hours later I e-mailed him to say I had a problem! He and Josh are thinking about a solution, as am I, and we have some ideas, but until then I am on a bit of a go slow which is the most frustrating part. Still, this is a temporary setback, and you have to offset it against the good stuff, it could be much worse and I am here of my own choosing - if I had to close the toolbox I'd get bored anyway just sailing and watching the birds! I would like to try bored for a while if that could be arranged though......just to see.
Even though it is I suppose sometime in the afternoon here I am dying for everyone at home to get up so I can ring them! It is odd not to be there today, but I'm not the only one, many people are not at home with their families where they should be at this time of year, and in particular as you enjoy your families today spare a thought for our servicemen and women who are posted abroad in all those trouble spots around the world, for whom I can assure you it will be business as usual.
Kim's reply to he broken gooseneck was "You should have taken your welder"........I haven't got it needless to say, but if anyone has a book entitled "How to make a lathe using a marine diesel engine, a screwdriver and other things commonly found on an IMOCA 60" I would very much like to hear from them, that would be a great present!
27 December - Scuttlebutt report - Steve nominated as Seahorse Sailor Of The Month
Steve White (GBR) - Quotes from nominators,
No one in the event can have risked so much to achieve their goal against every possible obstacle - Eero Lehtinen;
A superb example of what dogged self-belief can achieve? - Andrew Hunt;
Steve embodies the spirit that makes the Vendée so fascinating? - Jeremy Troughton;
Steve needs the Dubarrys and gear a lot more than Bruno Troublé, he can buy his own!!! - Harry Spedding.
Links to scuttlebutt and
27 December - Newswire report - Good progress despite gooseneck problems
Steve White, GBR (Toe in the Water), has kept the foot hard down over the last 24 hours on the evergreen 10 year old Finot Conq design which already completed two circumnavigations, and sailing a creditable 367 miles, the highest average in the fleet over the last day, despite a broken goose-neck.
29 December - Blog 14 - Highs, lows and progress.
I think I need to come down here more often to get a real handle on this place. It has been an odd twenty four hours, going from flat calm, eight knots of breeze and the lowest I have ever seen the barometer in the very centre of the last low, to having to slow the boat down as we got clobbered by the last front - there wasn't that much wind, about fifty odd knots, just a realy awkward sea state that called for the fourth reef to slow us down, (I thought it neccessary when we went from twenty six knots to seventeen in what felt like a boat length - all the telephones came off their hooks, the ammeter came out of the chart table and stuff generally went everywhere!) and that sea state has stayed with us all through today - I haven't dared go any faster for fear of breaking something else! Then in an instant, about ten minutes ago, it suddenly straightened itself out and our boatspeed has gone up fifty percent! I have to get used to those times when you just can't go flat out!
Since I wrote last, there have been some real highs and lows, I think for me the most extreme of the race so far. I have to say Christmas day was thoroughly miserable, so much so I nearly wasn't going to mention it. I felt I was on a go slow at the back of the fleet on a broken boat, on the opposite side of the world to my family who I really missed, and I have come here to race after all not cruise, and it was very, very difficult at that moment as you see the leaders slipping away, those behind gaining on you as you feel you are just firefighting breakages all the time. Alone on a boat all emotions are heightened, so all of the above coupled with some very touching Christmas cards and a sad book for a present meant I was really struggling. I had to give myself a really good talking to and examine why I was here, what I have gone through to get here, and what the event meant to me. Sometime in the early hours of Boxing Day I awoke to a sharp cracking noise and thought the worst, that the boom had come off, but no, it was my small wooden Christmas tree which had come unstuck from the chart table and all the little resin Santas had hit the chart table all at once with a sharp crack right by my ear. I took that as a sign and packed it away (until we have another little Christmas when I get home) and put Christmas and all of the asssociated emotions firmly behind me. So after having given myself a good kick up the backside I pulled my finger out and had quite a good run over the next period - maybe I tried a little too hard, the generator ripped of it's mountings and is currently lashed down! Another job, but a quick and easy fix when it calms down in the next forty eight hours.
Shortly afterwards I got a call from Andy at the Race Media Centre, who told me I had done a good twenty four hour run of three hundred and something miles, and did I know I had been voted Seahorse Sailor of the Month! I had no idea whatsoever, I am in a complete vaacum out here. I cannot afford to surf the internet, so I get my news of the outside world from Kim at home, and also Brian, Jonny and Sam, so it was a complete surprise to find that anyone has noticed me lurching around out here, and a real honour to get the award that normally only famous people get! I still can't quite work out why I got it, but it just goes to show how your fortunes and mood can turn around in a matter of hours.
I am absolubtely fine now, and looking forward to getting past New Zealand, getting the boat mended and weather wise having a somewhat nicer time in the Pacific that we have had in the Indian Ocean. I want to try and get a few miles back on the boats infont of me by Cape Horn too, but I have to temper that with getting around in one piece, that attrition is still horrendous still after I had hoped we had seen the last of it.
I am busy learning French now with Michele Thomas - he is very good, if a little scary. I expect he went to school in the days of frequent cane usage, and you can tell just sometimes from his voice that he wouldn't mind using it on some of his pupils ocasionaly! If nothing else breaks I'll be speaking like a native by the time I get home!
30 December - Blog 15 - The colours return.
Two blogs in two days? What's happening? I just wanted to write and say what a difference a day makes, it is really incredible. The wind has eased, and this mornings big squalls have been replaced with a gentle eighteen to twenty knots of breeze which is giving us a broad reach in beautiful sunshine with not a cloud in site - not one! It is incredibly bright outside and the sea is a rich mid blue flecked with small amounts of white here and there, the albatross look like they have been freshly bleached and positively shine. It is like I have rediscovered colour after days of grey - the red of the mainsheet and the yellow of the little tracker beacon lashed to the back of the boat are vivid as if seen as if through new eyes. I have been on deck for the first time in as long as I can remember without oilskins and not got soaked, which seems really strange!
I had one of the last tortelinis with two pots of tomato sauce and some of the happy shopper cheddar grated on top, and a slice of Sodebo "Space Bread", which is vacuum packed in industrial thickness plastic, and miraculously springs back into shape when released. It is a hundred calories a slice so goodness knows what it has got in it! I finished up with a couple of satsumas, I have hardly any of those left now, and as the fridge (cockpit) is warming up they won't last long now. Suitably fortified I am now ready for anything.
Now we are at the half way point it is strange to begin to see how things have been used up - I am rationing kitchen rolls, and one of my fairey liquid bottles froze I think and turned to green puppy slush; and is so thick it won't slide down the bottle let alone come out of the spout! (I am dying to take it back to Tesco in Dorchester and try and get a refund!) I have used one of the big tanks of diesel, and I have one left and a full day tank with another eighty eight litres in it, so we should be fine. Most of the freeze dried main meals I like have gone too, and I am left with lots of rice dishes - I am not a good vegetarian and not that keen on rice!
The wind is forecast to ease further, and I am going to take advantage of this and do some mending! The gooseneck and the generator namely, but in the meantime I am going to enjoy the sunshine and waste some diesel on listening to the stereo much too loudly!
31 December - Newswire report - Pilot problems again.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) on his autopilot problems:
One of the motors that I reconditioned gave out, that is the error code that it gave. The motor that I rebuilt has just had enough, and it has stopped. So I steered on the back up pilot for a while and that did not like trying to steer a compass course very close to the wind, because it does not have a gyro connected it is not very stable, it is OK reaching off the wind, but we have been hard on the wind all day, and so when it wiped out I have rolled everything away, I have put three reefs, and I so I thought I would change and put the drive from the back up pilot into the main pilot, and so I did that, and it's refusing to steer, and I put the old course computer back on and it is refusing to steer. I am scratching my head a little bit. I am quite tired and I could do with my tea. I just need this pilot to work. Really.
The back up pilot will work but upwind it will steer only to 30-40 degrees to the course I want to steer, to go reaching off is just not an option at the moment . I could put it all back together but then I would be bumbling off down in a generally SE'ly direction, and I was doing a little bit worse than east. I can put one pilot back to together and have it work not very well, or I can stop here and try and sort it out properly.
I am basically lying ahull, with three reefs in, when I said I was heading for Australia I meant that is the direction I am pointed at, with the mainsheet right out, this is the slowest you can get the boat to go and still test the pilot. Our course is 330 over the ground and 3 knots, so I am definitely not going to Australia, definitely not, I am carrying on all the way round even if I have to bloody well hand steer. I am not going to be beaten by this thing.