Sparrow Unloaded and Cleaned up in Charleston

Sparrow ended up motoring the last 120 miles in dead calm seas but also fighting a Gulfstream eddy, arriving in Charleston at 6pm on the 10th, right at high tide to gain entrance to the Charleston Harbor Marina. Customs arrived shortly thereafter and that went without a hitch. Huge thanks to Julie who came out and was there on the dock to greet me!

Julie and I spent three long days first emptying Sparrow’s contents into a minivan, then cleaning up the mold and putting away the sails and rigging. A fourth day allowed me to remove the watermaker and pour some epoxy. Then I got to hit the road and drive across the US with a van load of smelly laundry and assorted pieces of boat stuff. I arrived back in Thousand Oaks on the 17th with a messed up back thanks to the driver’s seat.

Sparrow suffered more mainsail car and track damage the last few thousand miles despite staying reefed down. The upper carriage failed a third time, and horrifyingly tore up the mast track. I will need to figure out how to source some sections of this unusual track, and procure a new carriage system and headboard.

Slowly easing back into land life, somewhat discombobulated. So great to see the kids and some friends.

Working on an epilog, I will be posting much more on my reflections of the journey, including more photos and even videos of the Southern Ocean now that I have bandwidth.

Now if I could get some help figuring out where to put all the boat stuff…

Last Day at Sea

31N, 78W

Getting through that cold front the last few days was not fun. 25-40 knots for 36 hours. At first it wasn’t too bad and I thought it wouldn’t last that long, so I ran off for a while. Then when it didn’t back off I had to head back up to a close reach. Jib needed to be rolled in, but the furling line broke – at night of course. I had two choices, either bear off and try to bring it down to put the staysail or storm jib up, or bear off a little, luff a little, and try to get by. I decided the risk of putting the sail in the water at night was too great (I bent a headstay doing this once), so I bore off a little, luffed a little, and got by. It took many more hours for things to calm down than I had anticipated, but the jib appears OK. It was actually the most stressful night of the trip, worrying about the jib and mainsail cars. There were a few times I was hanging in mid-air in the cabin, holding on to the rail as a 40 knot squall rolled by. Not my finest moments. Poseidon got his punches in for sure, with an assist from Yours Truly.

Public service announcement: make sure your furling line doesn’t break in 30 knots, at night. You can’t re-thread the drum while the sail is on, even after a half hour on the bow. Don’t ask me how I know.

So yesterday was characterized by calming but big (12-15’) and confused seas, and things were back to normal by afternoon. Thank goodness.

Wild Squalls

Really wild squalls in the area today. Never experienced anything like them. 30 knots from one direction, 30 feet over, 30 knots in another direction. Poor ocean didn’t know what to do, and neither di Sparrow or her skipper. Reefed down and held on. Tried to let it pass, but it was in no hurry. I looked up expecting a funnel cloud, but no such explanation. Left with 3 reefs and full ballast tanks, I forereached for an hour or so so the thing would move on. It did so reluctantly. In the turmoil, Sparrow managed to damage another mainsail car and a stanchion. Moving forward tentatively, scary looking sky this afternoon.

In other news, my last micro USB cord gave up. The salt air/seawater has gone through at least 4 cords of this type alone. This means I no longer have means to charge the Garmin tracker or the Kindle. The Garmin tracker will give up in about 24 hours, but I think I may still show up on

The Kindle is a bummer, but we are only 3.5 days away, and I do have one last paper book to digest: From Enlightenment to Revolution (Voegelin). It’s dense, probably why I’ve put it off.

Which leads me to another learning on this trip. Charge cords really don’t like sea boats. The devices themselves are typically fine, it’s the charging that takes them down. Every charge cord, of every type (USB-A to micro-USB, USB-A to mini-SUB, USB-A to USB-C, USB-C to USB-C, laptop charge bricks) has failed at least once. So the lesson is, hard-wire everything with heat-shrink connectors. Here is a list of devices with charging methods that failed:
• Laptop (Charge brick, USB-C to USB-C, USB-A to USB-C)
• Satphone (USB-A to mini-USB, 12v socket to connector)
• Inreach (multiple USB-A to mini-USB)
• Handheld VHF Radio (hard-wired charge dock)
• iPhone (multiple USB-A to lighting)

I thought a laptop was a better solution as I could set everything up in my living room, practice with Expedition, etc. I didn’t think enough about the charging weakness. Next time a hard-wired fanless mini-PC with a nice monitor, rugged keyboard and mouse.

Don’t depend on your phone or tablet for anything. Salt will get up in the charge port and then it’s done. If you have one onboard, store them in a baggie and be careful. A growing problem is these days more and more things have an app to go with them. My Victron charge controllers and battery monitor, and the NKE system for example. There are work-arounds but they cost money, of course.

650 miles to Charleston.

1,000 Miles Left

22N, 64W

Yesterday morning I was being chased by a big line of squalls. At first frustrating as they caused fickle winds from different directions and speeds. Then I learned to go with it and gybed a lot, having fun in the rain. Early afternoon things settled down and presto! Back to champagne sailing. Lovely, romantic moonlight sail last night with the light dancing off the clouds. The never ending light show continues. Even a ship came by to light up the horizon and add interest. Nothing like going 10 knots in smooth seas. Nothing. Not even Space Mountain at Disneyland.

I’ve come to appreciate Sparrow a lot. She makes quick work of sloppy seas. Glides down waves with glee. Easy to add or decrease sail. I’ll have to figure it out when I get back, but Sparrow may be averaging 200 miles a day while I baby her. On this count it will be sad to see land and have to end this adventure. Sadder still to part with her, but someone can have another amazing adventure with her.

Six days to land. Drinking in the last seconds.

Sargasso Sea

Not a lot to report. Still just bumping along in the trades on a beam reach. Weather will shift around a bit over the next week, but looks like a straight line into Charleston. I’d guess arrival on the 9th or 10th as I’ll slow down a bit. Relieved I’m not heading north up to Newport. Doesn’t look fun up that direction. Getting cooler in the evenings. I have that funny sargasso weed all over the deck, along with minnows. Odd there are no birds here.

Moved on to the Western History of Law. Surprisingly interesting!

1560 miles to Charleston.


7N, 45W

Wind came back. It’s been 20-30 on the beam for 36 hours now. Sloppy seas with an impressive amount of water coming over the deck. Rather uncomfortable going, reading is tough along with typing. So a little music today: bringing the 70’s back with Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens. Cat hasn’t aged well. Salt N Pepa on the other hand, you are doing just fine girl.

Lost two mainsail cars, so I had to steal two from down low. So Sparrow continues on reefed. Currently 3 reefs in as we bang along so not a big deal. It does mean though that I won’t be trying to get up to Newport this pass. I don’t want to risk needing to pound to weather and losing more cars in bad weather.

Perhaps a breakthrough with a destination. Looks like Sparrow is heading for Charleston. Someone should look up Brad Van Lieu and let him know his old boat (Balance Bar) will be in port in two weeks. I think he should have his storm jib back.

I’m having a lot of reflections on this project. Successes and failures yes, but more importantly how the alone time has provided for self-reflection as I enter the last third of life. Being cut-off from the constant media buzz has been amazingly healthy and productive. I will write more about this later after I’ve had time to distill things down. Or perhaps not. Sometimes I wonder what I should be discussing on a sailing blog!

2400 miles to Charleston.


Back across the Equator

2N, 38W

Yup, north of the equator after a few months down south. Winter, oh boy.

Progress is slowed. 3-5 knots of breeze from all over the place. Forecast shows a steady 15-20. Sloppy cross-swell. Sparrow has two reefs in, a tight mainsheet, and tighter angles to keep the banging down. I knew the forecast was too good to be true. I assume this is the ITCZ. Brooding clouds around, heavy with rain. We had a terrific rain last night where Sparrow and I got a much needed washdown.

An event occurred early in the evening of the 21st. Apparently the hydrogenerator hit something at 10+ knots and broke loose from it’s bracket. I heard nothing so was unaware of anything until I noticed there was no charge to the battery. I went aft to pull the prop out of the water when I found the whole unit dragging by the lifting tackle. The electrical wire sheared off where it exits the fin. I was lucky not to have lost the whole unit!

A repair I suspect would require disassembly of the lower housing to extract the generator motor. The electrical wire needs reconnecting to the motor/generator. There is a nub sticking out that I may be able to get a needle through to fish a string as I pull the motor. I think there is enough wire to simply reconnect the wire to the generator. Then straighten the pin, remount the unit and wire it back up. Not really worried about it as I have enough fuel to keep the battery juiced up. Perhaps I will make an attempt in smoother seas.

Working our way through the slop, hopefully the tradewinds will return soon and we will be off again.


Rounded Recife!

4S, 34W

Rounded Recife last night! Sparrow cracked off only a little as the genius routing program calls for heading a bit north as we will get headed in coming days. Then slowly we head more westerly. Sparrow will be aiming for Central Florida for now. Destination unknown. Forecast looks terrific with at least a week of tradewind, champagne sailing. Seas are sloppy this morning and the decks are wet, but it could be a pretty quick run over to the Floridian Coast.

Gotta say, Sparrow really is a remarkable sailing boat. With 50 feet of waterline, moderate lines, modern keel and rudder she is fast upwind and down; an all-around boat. Sparrow is doing an easy 10 knots with working sails. We would be going 2 knots faster with a downwind sail, knocking down 300 mile days. Her water ballast keeps the motion comfortable, adding weight to smooth the waves and righting moment to ease the heel angles. It occurs to me that she would be perfect for the OSTAR or TWOSTAR.

My reading has bogged down this week, struggling with political philosophy. Three books attempt to round out points of view, one straddling the middle (A Conflict of Visions – Sowell), one
representing authoritarianism (A Theory of Justice – Rawls) , and one representing libertarianism (Anarchy, State and Utopia – Nozik). None of these are easy reads. Sowell is probably the clearest, but I don’t think he explains the authoritarian angle very well as that is not where his heart is. Rawls is tough, very verbose without conveying meaning. Nozik is rational to the extreme and I feel like I understand his arguments having read Atlas Shrugged – Rand. Super interesting the Rawls and Nozik were in the same discussion group. I am left with trying to find a better communicator to deeply understand the moral arguments for authoritarianism which I don’t have on board. So, I am likely to move on to more history soon. I have a two-volume biography on Stalin by Stephen Kotkin that I’m looking forward to.

One minor technical problem to report: I lost the bobstay attachment on the hull due to chafe. Just too much seawater working on it over the miles. It’s not significant, so I just tied it off.