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  • A Call to AntarcticaOn March 10, 2009 at 13:43:19 French time, Skipper Rich Wilson and Great American III crossed the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne. Race time: 121 days, 41 minutes and 19 seconds
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Ship Log Archive: February, 2009

  • Feb
    28

    Day 111 - Northward again

    Heading north by a little west, trying to get to the high, to then get to other side for favorable westerlies. Sailing with staysail and three reefs in the mainsail. We were supposed to get lifted during the day, and although we got it late, we finally got it. I headed in the other direction--east--by doing a gybe, to see if I would be close to the course toward France. Given the sea state, I wasn't close to the course, so I had to gybe back and continue north.

     

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  • Feb
    27

    Day 110 - Heading north

    Reduced sail as seas and winds picked up a bit: solent to staysail to storm jib, one reef to two reefs to three reefs with 35 knots of wind now coming from the northeast. Heading is 335 degrees true, speed is 8 knots. The boat is pounding itself on the waves badly. Am doing this to get north into the high to wrap around and then head east to France.

     

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  • Feb
    25

    Day 108 - The original adventurer

    1823 UTC, 32/26N 41/47W, 5.1 knots, @319T, solent and full main, broad reaching. Difficult 24 hours. As we weren't making much progress, at 1-2 knots, thought best to try to cross the high-pressure ridge perpendicularly, to make the crossing shorter. As the ridge was stretched out northeast to southwest, we headed northwest. 

    Four times the wind changed direction to suggest it was coming in from the south or southwest, so we gybed four times, and then it did, but then it didn't, so we gybed back.

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  • Feb
    24

    Day 107 - Frustration

    1711 UTC, 31/16N 41/16W, 2.5 knots, @315T. Heading away from France, trying to cross the high pressure ridge. After that, you have to look at the weather maps to see how long this could take. A high pressure system comes in very far north to give northeast winds from here to France. "Frustrating" does not describe what I feel.

     

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  • Feb
    23

    Day 106 - More of the same

    2024 UTC, 28/33N 40/34W, 10.1 knots, 336 degrees. Weather patterns are not promising. As soon as we get to the high to wrap around, it dissipates, and a huge high starts to come in from far northwest, giving us northeast winds. Disappointing, to say the least. Just trying to get north, to get into flow of west to east systems. See no solution to the east, even though that is the direction of France.

    Couldn't get into bunk last night for sleep, got some at chart table, must have, because woke up to find boat aback, laying over on its side about 50 degrees, keel on wrong side, etc.

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  • Feb
    22

    Day 105 - Happy Birthday!

    1830 UTC, 24/45N  39/24W , 9.1 knots, @3450T, staysail, 2 reefs in mainsail, hard on the wind, as always. Sadly, forecasts look even more difficult, as the high that we have been going to meet to get some boost from the backside, is only going to be in position, as they say in baseball, for a cup of coffee, before moving on, and another high comes in from Nova Scotia area, to present adverse winds, not favorable winds.

    Sunny today, blue sky, barograph at 1024mb high.

    My mom is having an early birthday celebration today, spoke with my sister Sarah who is in from San Francisco for a visit.

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  • Feb
    21

    Day 104 - Polaris!

    1254 UTC, 20/17N 38/16W, 11.1kts, 005T. Lift when all weather files say header, complicated weather forecasts, just trying to continue to go north, looks as though will need for high to move back into mid-Atlantic and go around, like Safran. We'll see. Staysail, 3 reefs, squalls, rain, bigger seas. Saw Polaris last night for first time, and that was good. Can still see the southern cross at certain times when it's high. Got into the bunk for several naps last night.

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  • Feb
    20

    Day 103 - Flaky winds & a little rest

    2056 UTC, 17/42N  37/39W, 9.3kts @ 343T, 25 knots wind ENE. Thirty years ago I sailed downwind in the trades from the Canaries to Barbados. I was impressed by how steady they were, in velocity, direction, and cloud cover. Now, crossing these same trades, I'm impressed with how erratic they are: 12-28 knots of wind, direction varying by 25 degrees, and cloud cover looking like an impending storm nearly all the time. It's totally different.

    Last night, with 30+ knots across the deck, went to storm jib and 3 reefs in the mainsail.

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  • Feb
    19

    Day 102 - Taking another pounding

    1917 UTC, 13/42N  36/09W, 11.9 knots, 347T, 35 knots across deck, staysail and three reefs in main. May reduce to storm jib for the night, as I have up too much sail for going across these seas. Tried storm jib earlier, and it slowed the boat considerably. Then put the staysail back up to cover some ground. Now there is more wind, so we'll decide whether or not to change back to the storm jib in a little while.

    Difficult weather pattern in days to come with big lows and multiple highs separated and out of position.

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  • Feb
    18

    Day 101 - Northeast trades

    1943utc 9/50N  35/23W,  9.1knots @ 340T, staysail, 3 reefs in mainsail, 20-25 knots ne wind. Finally into what I recognize as trade winds, cresting seas, blue water, blue sky, fluffy white clouds. On edge between 2 reefs and 3 reefs, but going to stay with 3 to make it easier on boat. It doesn't mean the tremendous crashing will go away, but maybe it will be just a bit less bumpy if we happen to rocket off waves. 

    Spoke to the bulker Sea Hamery this afternoon, bound from Portugal to Brazil for 140,000 tons of iron ore, 25 crew aboard, good looking ship, in ballast. 

    Cleaned the desalinator with biocide today, trying to keep ship systems going. Turning off computer between communication and weather sessions to save battery amps.

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  • Feb
    17

    Day 100 - A good day

    2124 UTC, 6/13 N  34/36 W, 10.4 knots speed, compass at 346T, staysail, 3 reefs, keel full cant, 30 knots across deck, NE. Finally released from our private low pressure system that had clouded the skies and had bent the wind to a header of NNE to N. Wind now back to more normal, form the northeast. Also skies cleared somewhat, got a bit of sun in late afternoon, may get stars tonight, good for the spirits. Boat going fast, and pressed, still crashes off the waves.

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  • Feb
    16

    Day 99 - Maybe tomorrow will be better

    Still going. We have our own private low formed off the Brazilian coast to bend the wind in a more adverse direction than even the northeast trade winds would be. Had perhaps 16 or 18 thunderstorms come through this morning: rain, wind, no wind, 50 degree wind shifts, sails up, sails down, heading for France, heading for Mexico, pounding, crashing, keel on, keel off, start over. Knocked the wind charger, already loose, completely off its mount to dangle by its wires.

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  • Feb
    14

    Day 97 - Valentine's Day review

    1928 UTC, 4/44S 32/42W, 11.1 knots, 032T, staysail and two reefs in the mainsail, 20 knots ese wind, squally on approach toward equator.

    Happy Valentine's Day to all!

    Heading just outside Fernando Island, then change course to north true, with maybe a bit of west, toward where I think the doldrums/ITCZ will be narrow.

    Yesterday, not fetching the coast up toward Recife, we tacked offshore, target 25 miles, tacked back when we reached that, and to deep discouragement, were still not fetching the corner of Brazil.

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  • Feb
    13

    Day 96 - Tacking

    1500utc, 3/09S 34/33W, port tack. Heading east from Maceió, Brazil, but couldn't quite fetch the coast. So at the 100 meter line, I tacked to go east for about 25 nautical miles (nm) or so, and then tack back.

    Saw a sailboat this morning tacking out from the coast as well, and a big containership going north, staying off the 100 meter line also.

    We've been hard on the wind trying to get up this coast since the huge storm off Uruguay, and we still couldn't find that extra few miles to be able to finally fetch.

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  • Feb
    13

    Day 95 - A challenging task

    February 12, 2009 - A difficult day. About 12 hours in the middle of the day produced no significant mileage in the direction of France. About 4-5 hours in the middle of that period, I rolled up the jib, reefed the mainsail, shut off the autopilot, and just let the boat drift in circles. This was easier on all involved.

    In an attempt to do something positive during our drifting, there was one task that actually required the boat to be almost standing still, and so I tackled that one in the broiling Brazilian sun.

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  • Feb
    12

    Day 94 - Frustrations

    February 11, 2009 - Difficult day with shifting winds: 20 knots, 2 knots, east, northeast, north, southeast, black clouds with no wind. Ten sail changes today, all for naught, go 12 knots in the right direction, then 9 knots completely in the wrong direction, then 2 knots and lose steerage, six- to seven-foot waves with no wind driving them, choppy from different directions. What is going on here?

    It’s been very frustrating to say the least.

    Encountered a ship last night, starboard to starboard passing, called him on the VHF radio when abeam 1/2 mile off, suddenly his radar went on, don't think he had any idea we were there.

    Full moon has been spectacular.

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  • Feb
    10

    Day 93 - Shimmering rainbows

    2147 utc, 16/48S  37/25W,  9.0 kts @ 016T, solent and one reef. A long day of trying to point high on starboard tack up the coast to clear some shoals, and to get upwind to where the wind was supposed to shift to lift us. Seems as though it took forever, several days in fact, but finally did get across the last bank, and then got a lift so that for now at least we're heading in the right direction.

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  • Feb
    09

    Day 92 - Getting a lift

    February 9, 2009 - 0945 utc, 21/48S 36/23W, 8.5 kntos at 348T. Working very hard to get upwind and to where we can have a favorable wind angle. It is still far off, but we did get a good lift yesterday evening up to steering north for a while. Another low out of Rio will squeeze the isobars in an unfavorable direction though, so we will get headed as we head up and therefore into the coast. Will push it as long as possible, maybe we can get a break.

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  • Feb
    08

    Day 91 - Sailing dead upwind

    February 8, 2009 - Tacking dead upwind trying to get past Rio. To go into the high deep enough to get a good tack north would be many miles seemingly sideways. At least the skies are blue, the clouds are fluffy white, the temperature is warm to hot. The boat sails well.

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  • Feb
    07

    Day 90 - Quick update

    February 7, 2009 - 1300 UTC, 26/38S  37/03 W, 8.5 knots, staysail, one reef, 20 knots of wind NNW, came through trough last night. If you haven't seen a South American thunderhead, you haven't seen a thunderhead. Who knew the sky was that tall?! Totally intimidating in the moonlight, but we lucked out and didn't get a lot of incremental wind to force sail changes.

    This morning spoke to the M/V Protector, Captain Raz (India) in command, bound for Santos, Brazil, to Durban, South Africa for bunkering (take on fuel), then to Singapore to deliver its 40,000 tons of sugar.

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  • Feb
    06

    Day 89 - Great fatigue

    February 6, 2009 - A day late with the ship's log. Great fatigue yesterday after a very long day. Had to replace the pilot steering linkage bolt again. This time with a better bolt. And put some extra leverage on the compression bolts to tighten to try to take some load off the bolt via friction/compression on the linkage tube. Had to heave-to again, did so on opposite gybe as the first time, thinking I could equally get at the bolts under the traveller, couldn't, had to gybe my heave-to.

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  • Feb
    05

    Day 88 - Heading east northeast

    2007utc,  30/17s  41/06w, 10.1knots boatspeed at 053T, staysail and 2 reefs in mainsail, wind SE at 20-25 knots, blue skies finally, barograph 1013 steady. Made good miles today in the right direction. The next low ahead of us that was supposed to retreat to SE had done so to a degree, but is leaving behind a portion of itself, don't know if it will develop or not, weather files say no, hope they are right. If so, can cross axis of trough tomorrow afternoon, then have to make way to NE into high which is not well formed, sail ENE for a while before we can tack north to get into the SE trade winds.

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  • Feb
    04

    Day 87 - Some easy miles

    After getting hammered again last night, with 35-40 knot headwinds, storm jib and 3 reefs in the mainsail, crashing along, very bad for the boat, finally today, we had wind, not too much, not too little, in a good direction, so that we could make a good direction and go straight for a waypoint off Rio de Janeiro. Solent and one reef in the main, and making about 13 knots average, easy on the boat, fairly easy on skipper. Walter Greene, the great designer, builder, racer of multihulls, said to me once, "make the easy miles Richie, there will be plenty of hard miles, so make the easy miles", meaning, when you can go, go, for as long as you can, as hard as you can.

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  • Feb
    03

    Day 86 - Thank You King Neptune!

    What a day. After yesterday's recuperative opportunity, with shower, shave, and light winds, expected more through night. But no--the weather files were off by 100% again in wind velocity. Boat took a beating going upwind, with the staysail and three reefs in the mainsail.

    Stayed up with boat much of night in cockpit cuddy, when all suddenly became quiet. The boat was bearing off on its own. I had lost the autopilot! So I grabbed the tiller, got organized downwind, rolled the staysail, tried the backup pilot, no backup pilot, now what? 25 knots of wind, open 60 boat, dark, no pilots.

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  • Feb
    02

    Day 85 - What a difference a day makes!

    What a difference a day makes! Crystal blue skies, sea down, wind down, drifting along first NE then tacked NW to get to new wind a bit earlier, had a shower in the cockpit, had a shave, washed hair (pretty shaggy, will have to cut it soon). I saw a small pod of whales cross our wake about 1/4 mile behind, one pretty big one, and an errant flying fish, heading south, all by himself. I shouted to him "Wrong way!

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  • Feb
    01

    Day 84 - All is well now

    Felicitations, Michel! C'est incroyable, absolument incroyable! Quel navigateur! Je me souviens toujours quand vous m'a aide avec mes questions pour le soixante pieds, j'ai ecrit en Francais, et vous avez fait votre repons en Anglais! Vous etes tres genereux, tres amicale, vraiment un vainqeur, un champion. Felicitations, Michel.

    Congratulations, Michel! It’s incredible, absolutely incredible! What a navigator! I will always remember when you helped me with my questions about the 60-foot boat, how I wrote in French and you answered in English.

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