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Archives for November 2007

At Sea

Islan Kea II at Sea

Ships Blog, boat date 3.1 days, 28th November. this is Bilge boy Tom talking to an audience of 1. I.E. I've got no way of actually posting this to the internet.

Standard quote is: Sail south until the butter melts and then turn right, well we decided to turn right early.

PlagueOops blogging interrupted by possible Whales sited, blows and so on too far away to really see.

There have been 4 sets of marine mammals so far one per day. Which is nice.

Also the navtex (for landlubbers its a very slow text based navigational/weather warning system) reports a plague of locusts. I've seen wonderful navtex reports before, including the car transporter ship sinking etc. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect locusts to constitute a hazard to shipping.

Weather is already warming up. Wind irritatingly drops towards sunset. We don't have quite as much wind as we'd like, we're expecting a 21 day passage. The ARC average. That means keeping an average of 6 knots or 144Nm per day. So far its been about 120Nm 5kn.

Its proper dark tonight. Moon hasn't risen yet. Its cloudy too. No ships or lights. Just a black hole behind the boat, you can hear the water washing by rather than see it. Ghostly reflections of the guard rail and and occasional blob of phosphorescence in the wake.

The Atlantic so far has been busier than I remember. More ships seen already than my previous crossings.

First flying fish fond on deck today. Small one. The water temp sensor on the boat is telling porky pies. Its over reading. however its risen by 2 degrees since Gran Canaria.

"Tidiness is next to Godliness, fortunately I am an Atheist" Tom Griffiths 2007

Last night was spent without autopilot. It broke, fortunately just a loose bolt. Its not much fun having to steer all watch, all alone, when you can't take your hands off the wheel. Waking Caroline up for the next watch consisted of running to the fore cabin and back again before we got too far off course.

To fix the george (the autopilot) we had to empty the one of the cockpit lockers. This is tricky, coos I spent about an hour cramming 2 bikes, a fender, three gas bottles, 4 buckets, 2 gerry cans, 2 oars and another halftone of smaller crap into it. Caroline aptly described this as "Tetris". Fortunately Steve got the job of crawling in to the locker and getting under the cockpit of a moving boat and lining the rudder quadrant up with the autopilot ram.

Day 4 (November 29th) Hammer down today. Clouds look like proper trade wind clouds, wind's up. We spent the daylight hours flying along under the main and cruising chute. Never set a cruising chute before. Great on a beam reach. Yee ha. Actually Steve and Katrin have only set it the once before, we weren't quite sure where to sheet it. Got that wrong. chafed its way through the sheet in a few hours.

FishDay 6(December 1st), today's been a cracker. Hot, flying fish swooping all over. Been running downwind at 7+ knots under parasailor, after we fixed the spinnaker pole universal joint that is. We spent yesterday periodically hammering a pin back into it. I swear this is the second time I've had one of these go on me mid Atlantic. A parasailor is a blooming great spinnaker with a slot in it, in the slot is a kite. Weird.

We got the fishing gear out yesterday. I spent most of yesterday untangling the line. Today we caught a nice big Dorado.

We appear to be catching some of our division. The race boys are miles ahead. Well most of them. Pindar, a Volvo 60, is presumably behind us still. We last saw their carbon racy ass beating back towards Las Palmas under headsail alone about 4 hours into the fist day.

To be fair to them, we've had our share of troubles. Some boats have had far far worse. One of the race boats has a burn patient on board. Another lost their rudder and got a rope round their propeller on the first day and got towed in. One, 4 days out into the atlantic, were boarded by illegal immigrants, poor buggers were probably in serious trouble that far into the Atlantic. They got control of their boat back I think. Saw a boat loose their boom on the start line and heard another go back with engine trouble, since then their have been various blown parasails etc. All in all I'm happy with our compass that doesn't point north and a crew member with a bruised bottom.

Steve recons I should be able to got this to go through the irdium satellite phone. Will try and post this to the web tomorrow. Position is position now. Sunset on the 6th day out from GC, December 1st. Glad I didn't bring an advent calendar. The Chocies would have melted by now.

Well that didn't work, suspect my server may be down. Ooops. Dave did say his ADSL was a bit dickey, as was his electricity.

bodgeDay 10 and a bit. Well the Autopilot broke again, this time the brand spanking new hydraulic ram and pump unit, put in just because the old one was old. Its only been in since Gib and it died. I spent about an hour upside down in a locker, leaning under the aft cockpit, though a tiny hatch removing the new ram and putting the old one back in. Woot. That was fun.

Spinnaker pole has gone again too. Now its held together by, a boat hook, a block of wood, a jubilee clip some string and some gaffer tape. Damn were good.

All troubles aside, we had a couple of slow days pole less, and heading south to avoid a big hole in the wind. Yesterday we ran most of the daylight hours under cruising chute, charging along. Today we were running with the Parasailor up. Till the wind hit 28 knots, which is brown shorts time.

half way Anyway, pole is back up and we're half way to St Lucia. Some time in the night actually. Bubbly for lunch, and sandwiches. Yesterdays lunch was better. It was tuna sweet corn pasta salad, with onion and tomato salad on the side, made by yours truly.

Hang on I made a salad, none of you are going to believe that are you? Damn, damn, damn should have photographed it damn. Oh well no one will have read this far through a blog entry this long anyway. Managed to get off my cooking day by spending the time fixing george the autopilot. Think I should have cooked.....

Last night was kind of nervous, somewhere out there is a yacht, a NARC yacht, who's crew abandoned it several days ago. There's a saying amuncst sailors. "You only step up into a life raft", as in if your not actually sinking don't get into the life raft. They abandoned to a life raft. cos of a problem with a chain plate, aside from that the boats fine and merrily making its way to the Caribbean. Chain plates are the metal load spreading straps on the hull the rigging is bolted too. Think of them as foundations for a mast. Nasty but not "abandon ship". This happened several days ago. They left the nav lights on, but the batteries will be long flat by now. Yachts are plastic (usually) and therefore right buggers to pickup on radar. Normally you assume the guy on the other boat will be paying attention, even if he got his lights off. The Marie Fucking Celeste, is another matter.

Blue water sailingDay 14, Sunday the 9th.
The weather has been very trying for the last few days. It started off 3? 4? nights ago. I was on watch at 2:30AM black cloud visible so I reefed. Not enough, not nearly enough. The 43 knots (Severe Gale 9). You need a lot of reefs in that sort of breeze. The cloud wasn't just a squall. We were still under bare poles at 4:30 when I finally got to go below.

It rained from then till the following evening. Incessantly. To keep the boat dry you have to keep the hatches closed. Its like a sauna down bellow. On deck its soaking and too windy to be comfortable.

The waves where coming from 2 directions, making it very uncomfortable. The rain finally stopped just before it got dark. The sun came out ahead. Ahead! the wind was from behind how did it come out ahead?

Instead of clearing up the wind rose and rose. We were doing watch on watch 1 hour on one hour off in pairs. With me and Steve taking it in turns to helm. Too windy for the others and the autopilot. Steady wind in the high thirties (gale force 8), prolonged periods in the the low 40's (Severe Gale 9). In gusts 46 knots (storm force 10) seen on the deck instruments which seem smoothed, the spikier NMEA down below. Saw a 49 and a 50 knot appear. Not fun at all. Boat doing 11 knots under bare poles.

SquallThe following day was at least sunny, with horrid squalls all over the place. I had a nice shower in one of them. 30+ knots for prolonged periods was common place. Squalls are so wet visibility is in feet. Rain is in inches per minute. Sea boils. Nice.....

The morning of day 13 was squally again. 42 knots of breeze, me driving in a battened down boat in my boxers. biblically wet. Noah was a wuss. 42 knot power shower. 40 knots of driving rain stings.

After the mooring squall the rain set in again. Solid lake district holiday style rain, sometimes worse. Wind between low 20's and mid thirties. Huge mixed up sea. Horrible motion. Not fun, everything damp or worse. Rained for 18 hours non stop. I made bread, which didn't help the sauna down below.

This mooring (Day 14) has dawned sunny wind is down, sea still confused but not so bad. Sun, glorious sun. Cockpit is covered in olives tea towels and other wet stuff. Everyone is so happy. We can still see the rain etc behind. So this may only be a rest bite. But its so welcome.

Bun in the ovenIts been 2 weeks since the pub. 2 weeks since the internet. Hell no beer yesterday. I'm loosing weight. Sure of it. So's everyone. Were eating like kings its gotta be the booze. That and the stress and effort of living on a boat where gale force gusts aren't even registered anymore.

Those of you that haven't done much yotting, I can't begin to describe how difficult it can get. Everything moves. In 4 dimensions. The cooker is on pivots. The pots have to be clamped or wedged in. Pouring the tea is downright dangerous. Nothing can be put down or it will fall over or fly across the cabin. In weather like we've been having everything is we or covered in condensation. Those of you who have been sailing, will know what I mean. However normally these things happen in the channel or north sea, where shelter is a day away at most. Lifeboats can get to you etc. We'd just passed half way across the Atlantic ocean when the bad weather hit. We had to sit through 4 days of it. No chose. No helicopter can operate out here they don't have the range. Lots of yachts are having it far worse than us. Boom's sails and rigging lost. "Spam" a boat ahead of us lost her rig and was taking on water. Her 3 crew are safe aboard another yacht and she's presumably sunk. That's 2 yachts lost so far.

Since I wrote the blog this morning, the autopilot (now called "Georgina") has gone again. Sheered bolt this time. However the spare bolt is fatter than the old bolt. There is a removable plastic bush on the universal joint that allows a fatter bolt. Removable my arse not on the old ram. So we took the UJ off the new ram (that's the one in box wot doesn't work, remember? Do try and keep up...) and stuck it on the old one. Phew.

I am so glad it didn't go in the last few days while we were having awful weather. It wasn't like we trusted the autopilot in the heavy stuff but when it can handle it its so nice to have. Here's a handy guide to Island Kea II's autopilot. Sung by the Mid Atlantic Gospel Choir:

The Autopilots connected to the Drive Computer,
The drive computers's connected to the connection box,
The connection box is connected to the Hydraulic ram
The hydraulic ram's connected to the UJ,
The UJ's connected to the bolt,
The bolt's connected to the quadrant,
The quadrant's connected to the rudder post.

So hear the word of the lord...

I'm intimately familiar with that lot now.

Position: 22° 37' N, 29° 43' W | Posted: Thu 29th November 2007

Cats and Dogs

This isn't making getting ready to leave any easier. Its chucking it down I want to do my laundry, the block on the boom is held together with insulating tape to make so I can get a replacement screw and its chucking it down. Woot

My back hurts, trying to manoeuvre 4 200Ah batteries along a pontoon, over a gang plank, through a boat and into some bilgewater infested holes in the floor and of course the reciprocal with their predecessors will do that to you.

So yesterday it was bilgewater and heavy lifting, today rain. Tomorrow its the market and buying 3 weeks worth of friut and veg. Glamorous life I lead.

"Bilge water" a definition: The "bilge" is the lowest part of the boat. Where water collects. Since gravity is universal and applies to other liquids and solids, the phrase "bilge water" is deceptive since it neither looks or smells like even the vilest pond water.

Simulating Bilge Water at home

For proper effect at home you require one bucket, some protective clothing (the sort normally used in Nuclear Power stations). The Hoover, some nail clippers, some bath water prefereably at least third hand. A spanner and a car jack. Dip the bucket in the bath, half fill it with water - wear protective clothing. Then pop the lid on the hoover, pour the contents of the bag into the bucket. Clip your toe nails, add them. Now take the bucket and add go to the street, find the most decrepit old white van in the street jack it up and use the spanner to drain its oil into the bucket. If you want add flour, gravy, urine, random nicknacks, beer and wine to taste.

Stir and store in the airing cupboard for 6 months to simulate the tropics. Shaking occasionally to simulate motion of the boat. Finally find some irreplaceable item or priceless heirloom, drop it in the bucket and fish it out (quick before it disolves).

Position: 28° 77.1' N, 15° 25.5' W | Posted: Thu 22nd November 2007

Damn I are good.

He he...

Skilled crew. I just fixed the wifi in the marina in Las Palmas. Damn I'm good.

Good Job they didn't change the default password on the router!

Position: 28° 76' N, 15° 25.7' W | Posted: Tue 20th November 2007


Arrived in Gran Canaria, this time without the 9 hour delay.

Boat is great, already fixed the inverter and the ciggy lighter socket, so got power for the laptop.

Marina bar has wifi, so geeking is go. Gonna put some photos on face book at some point.


Position: 28° 76' N, 15° 25.7' W | Posted: Wed 14th November 2007 |

Off Today

Well I'm ready to go. Well nearly. I'll find some internet in gran canaria sometime before I head off.

Wonder what I've forgotten. I hope it nothing important. My back in 2 kilos over weight. I look like a terrorist. The top of the back pack contains my lovely "pulling pants" best Primark y fronts with a pink trim. Hope I don\'t have to unpack it.

 Hee he. Going now. This is displacement activity. And a temporary post will probably be over written.


Position: 51° 92' N, 0° 11.2' W | Posted: Mon 12th November 2007


A big thank you to Brighton Sailing(Drinking) Club, who've bought me some new Olilies. Probably the most expensive and most respectable item of Clothing I own(or ever have). A very big thank you to all of you.


They also gave me a "survial kit" containing:

  • rubber gloves (don't ask)
  • Vaseline (see above)  
  • Johnson's baby powder (shark repellent?)  
  • baked beans (for lack of wind)
  • wind settlers tablets (for hurricanes)
  • Primark boxer shorts  
  • deoderant
  • pulling pants (blue y fonts with pink trim.
  • dioralate
  • gaffer tape  
  • ear plugs (for the rest of the boat I believe)  
  • gloves in a bottle
  • and a gay pride whistle  
  • flavoured condoms (emergency rations?)


    exactly what this will help me survive is unclear, attack by a gay sea monster?

  • Position: 50° 49.3' N, 0° 89.7' W | Posted: Fri 9th November 2007 |

    Website hosted by Christopher Robin

    This website is now countrified, since I'm leaving the country this server had to go.

      Ok so server is an exaggeration its a MiniITX box running Linux. Well Dave has kindly agreed to look after it for me. Which is very kind of him. He now lives in the Ashdown Forest.

    Its mostly famous for Winne the Pooh. Principally the original bridge used for Pooh Sticks.


    In other words this is the "Website at Pooh Corner", the main difference being the addition of an "h".... 

      Any way thanks very much Dave and I am slightly jealous of your house, a nicer spot in the country you'd be hard pressed to find. (Tom exits stage right to write a really irritating FaceBook app for pooh sticks) 

    Read Dave's Blog, "Insufficient Time"


    Position: 51° 44.9' N, 0° 60.9' E | Posted: Wed 7th November 2007 |

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