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.

Recife Ho!

11S 33W

Almost up to the turning point where Sparrow can start heading to the NW. Maybe tomorrow if the wind holds. Four days of banging upwind has yielded a lighter breeze on the beam and we are back to champagne sailing as of yesterday morning! Sparrow can be such a delight. Smoothing the seas with her ballast, going an easy 9 knots in 10 knots of breeze. Decks aren’t quite dry, but they will be after I turn the corner. I think today marks 3 weeks since heading out.

I’m taking Recife wide to avoid traffic and fishing boats. I just sleep better. Also, I remember reading years ago to give the Amazon Delta room as tree trunks wander about. No idea if that’s still true or if it ever was, but I shall sleep better. Not as hot as I thought it would be here.

Shipping traffic is different. All the ships are in no hurry moving at 11-13 knots. A guy came up behind me last week and it took him 2 days to pass me. They never hail me, never change course so I do if prudent. Ghost ships.

The equator beckons. The Big Dipper was in her glory last night, pointing at a star below the horizon.

Riding North

It’s been a couple of days since posting, but not much going on. Wind continues to be from where I’d like to go, but less than 10 knots and smooth seas so a rather comfortable, delightful magic carpet ride. Really treasuring the moments out here. Hoping for a lift as Sparrow heads north, so we will see.

Finished up the highly acclaimed Rites of Spring, about WWI. Not a recounting of the war, but more a discussion about the culture that gave rise to it, the culture of the times, the horrors of infantrymen both in the trenches and when they tried to assimilate back into society, and the culture that led to the rise of Hitler. To be honest it felt like it provided few answers to why the catastrophic war happened. For great background on the war itself, Dan Carlin’s podcast Hardcore History is terrific. He gives you detail for what happened and a feel for the horrors of that war. Many view WWII as a
continuation of WWI, at least in Europe, and I think that’s right. Perhaps the why of the war is still a bit of a mystery. Finally, I have no idea why I’m writing about this.

Anyway, that wraps up history on my list. Now I’m on to philosophical underpinnings of politics and law. Great stuff.

Still 1,000 miles from Recife.

Waiting for Wind

Not much to do out here but rock out to Salt N Pepa! That’s right, Salt N Pepa rocking the South Atlantic! Now get your Shoup on. Spin it on the platter and get that booty moving!

Whatta Man whatta man whatta very fine man. Yes he is!

Oh and yes, photo taken today.

What Went Right

Sails – Hydranet rocks. My Main and jib still have mostly good shape after an abusive 15,000 miles. You can stitch it when you need to. Doesn’t delaminate. Recommended for any offshore boat.

Mast, Boom, Rigging – Only failure was my own doing, leaving the jib halyard on the clutch. No significant chafe. Loving the blocks I soft-shackled onto the outer main reef points.

Deck gear – Anderson 5200’s are great. Harken black magic blocks amazing, even old ones.

Water ballast system – All pumps, tanks, plumbing, valves all good, great to have to keep the boat on her feet and stay comfortable.

Engine & alternators – All good, no problems.

“Home Brew” 400 AH 12v LiFePO4 Battery & pseudo BMS – flawless performance. Amazing power at hand, 200 amps in no problem. My homebrew BMS even worked as a backup battery monitor when seawater ate the Victron.
Electrical wiring – No failed connections. Not one. Design worked as intended. Since I designed and installed the wiring I’m going to take a victory lap on this one. Masthead, deck, steaming, running, and interior lights all still work. Not one failure except the reverse polarity switch for the tricolor/anchor light that got hit with seawater.

Watt & Sea Hydrogenerator – once I learned how it talked to me, all good worked well.

Zamp Solar panels – yup, all good

Repair Stuff
Tools – I took almost every tool I needed, the exception being files to file down mainsail track car guides in Puerto Williams. This was needed as Sparrow apparently has a custom track. For power tools I took a drill and grinder with an inverter to charge the batteries. I might add a small reciprocating saw (I took a hand saw) and sander if I were to head offshore again. A wood chisel oddly ended up being a very useful tool.

Leak repairs – Supplies carried included amalgamating tape, plumber’s putty, epoxy putty, LifeSeal, Splashzone, EternaBond Tape. All was used to varying degrees to stop leaks.

NKE Instruments & Autopilot – I’m impressed with this system. Autopilot with L&S hydraulic drive has had no issues. Not one after 15,000 miles and it drives non-stop. The wind, heading, boat speed information is well damped out of the box. Displays fully
configurable. Almost never an issue. Truly impressive. Then again, I did the install. Oh, yeah – high fives all around!

I did have problems with two pieces of the system. The ultrasonic speed would drop to zero in light conditions (boat moving say, 4 knots or less), then come back after 20 seconds or so. Autopilot doesn’t like this, but luckily it only happens in light air. The other problem I have is with the WiFi box. I had a lot of trouble getting my computer to stay connected and eventually gave up. I’ve been using a handheld VHF for GPS data to support navigation and routing. I understand NKE has an updated WiFi Box now. Even with these issues, I can heartily endorse NKE.

Vesper Watchmate 850 – Been on the market for years but it’s a great low power unit for offshore sailboats. The more I use it, the more I like it.

Furuno Radar – Solid as expected from Furuno.

Echomax XS Radar Reflector – great to get respect from ships, and alarms trigger sooner than AIS gets picked up. Not a big deal – 60 miles instead of 50, but still, good to know something is in the vicinity.

Dell Extreme Laptop 7424, and windows Tablet 7212 – Both still work great after 3 months in a crappy environment. Of note, I did have problems with the chargers though both for the computers and phones. Since all my hard wired gear had no problems, next time I would hard wire a computer and backup.

Expedition – The routing flexibility is impressive. I do lots of different routes for passage planning. Great software. Used Squid for European model weather, no issues there either other than forecast accuracy in certain areas.

Garmin Inreach – No problems. Tracking stayed on all the time.

Iridium Certus – I am putting this on the what went right list, but I have mixed feelings about this system. First, it worked as intended. Connections were always solid and fast. The downside is there is no controlling what your computer – or god forbid phone – does once it connects. It’s basically an open connection to the internet. Windows and other programs will want to start downloading updates and who knows what else. There are firewall settings and 3rd party software to try to control this, but you have to be thinking about it all the time. The firewall settings are not for the faint of heart. It’s not a simple system setup. The result is you will pay dearly for all the data that gets sent back and forth that you couldn’t care less about. It’s on the list as it worked as intended, but it was a poor user experience. The reseller I went through could have done a much better job with going through how my system was setup.

Mintaka Duo Barometer – No problems, calibrated with LAX before departure and appeared dead on with forecasted GRIB pressures in Southern Ocean. Wish I had mounted it in a more visible location.

Patagonia Capilene is still the standard
Old Musto HPX pants from 2012 still going strong. Amazing. Gill OS1 jacket solid.
Muck boots perfect.
Helly Hansen Skagen decks shoes great. Yes they stink like every other pair on the planet, but they stick to the deck and stand up to my abuse.
Heavy weight Fleece pants (hard to find)
Darn Tough wool socks
Seal Skin socks for low pressure systems
Wool hats a must at high latitudes, and wear in the bunk.
Wichard jacklines and tether – I like that they are rugged and purposeful Spinlock Deckvest – Comfortable, and luckily I didn’t have to test it.

Klymit inflatable pillow – who cares if it gets wet?
Klymit air mattress, the bigger one
0 degree tall Coleman sleeping bag with Goretex sleeping bag shell – very good in Southern Ocean
Jetboil & welder’s sparker – totally reliable
Peak Refuel dehydrated food – Better than Mountain House
Hand Coffee grinder – fresh ground coffee makes a difference! Basic wool blankets to hide under when you have no heat at 55°S. Bose SoundLink Revolve + – Sounds great and holy crap it still works!!!

Other Gear
Headlamp – Fenix HL50R – pretty much the last word in headlamps at sea. Always worked, never a fuss, battery lasts a long time. Downside: heavy.
Binoculars – Fujinon FMTRC-SX, the last pair of binoculars you will ever buy. Delightful optics. Heavy but weight doesn’t bother me. Gill Deck Bags, 60L – Rugged and everything stayed dry inside. Used to store supplies, parts, tools, food,…

Funny, looking at this list, what was left to go wrong? Well, boats are complicated…