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Ocean Planet Report
Wednesday, January 8, 2003 1100gmt
Position: 43 00S, 155 03E
Speed 8-11kts, wind SSE @ 25-35kts


The other day I was saying how important it is to have a sense of humor out here. Well, that’s especially true given our current situation. Looking at the weather predicted for the next week, we will be going quite slowly as some damage occurred a few days ago.

We can no longer use the water ballast on starboard tack, as in an accident, we blew the tank bulkhead up. Not fun at all! I won’t go into much detail, but the old saying is true: no bilge pump is as effective as a motivated person with a bucket. There was a lot of water inside the boat, but fortunately all the electronics seem ok. 

I wasn’t going to bring it up as I didn’t want our supporters to worry about my safety (and there was the possibility that the conditions wouldn’t expose it since on port tack we’re fine). But the wind has swung south and east, and we are going very slow without the weight of the nearly 5000 lbs of ballast on the starboard side. Imagine sailing along with 25 good sized football players sitting on the rail, and if they all hopped off….you would suddenly heel WAY over! So without the ballast, I can’t put up as much sail as usual or we get overpowered and spin out. 

The last 24 hours have provided some excessively thrilling weather to boot. Big squalls, lightning, and just a few hours ago we had 50-60 knots of wind. An unpredicted strong low pressure cell was imbedded in a big front passing through. We knew about the front coming but had no mention of this intense local low (surprise!) with the barometer going down to 997mb. The sea conditions were wild as the new southerly blast smashed into the northerly swell from the big blow that was just in front of us. I kept reducing sail as we careened about, eventually rolling up the headsails and dropping the mainsail entirely. There was so much wind the main didn’t want to come down so I had to repeatedly climb up the rig a little way to hook in a small block and tackle to help lower it. While clinging to the mast above the halyard stoppers, I once looked to windward into the spray and noticed what looked like smoke on the water off the tops of the waves. I realized that this was “spindrift” the fine mist that happens when it blows really hard. I said out loud: “Yep, it’s pretty windy now!” to no one in particular…

Under “bare poles” (no sails up), we surfed to 15kts a few times, but the average speed wasn’t very good. We were also heading too far north, so after it lightened up to 40kts I put up the staysail and headed up to course. We are only going 9-11kts when normally it would be 12-15kts, but without the ballast that’s all we can carry within reason. But it’s better than not moving and we are headed for New Zealand!

Surprisingly Brad has not caught up, and has been going through the same weather nearby. We check up on each other every few hours on the Iridium phones and to monitor the weather. We are in total agreement that it sucks. 

Clawing away to the northeast,
Bruce on Ocean Planet 


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