Transatlanticism, Day 5

Day 5 – 28°26.3S  003°15.5E
13 September 2013 – Total Distance Covered: 941nm

Headwinds at 30 knots, lots of banging as the bow rides up the swell, lifts off and then slams down hard into the trough below. If you’re sleeping near the front of the boat you experience moments of weightlessness in your bunk before being slammed down again. It is truly amazing what sort of conditions your body can get used to sleeping in. It helps to be exhausted.

While we have headwinds we have to motor. The yacht carries a fair amount of diesel in her tanks but we really don’t want to be using it unless we absolutely have to. We try steering off the wind so that we can throttle down the engine and save fuel, but our VMG drops dismally. VMG, or Velocity Made Good, is the speed at which you are travelling towards the place you want to go. If you’re doing 10 knots and heading straight for your waypoint your VMG will be 10 knots. But, if you’re travelling at 12 knots and heading 30 degrees to the left or right of your waypoint, then your VMG might only be 7 knots. So we constantly play this game trying to find the optimal balance of VMG and trying not to burn diesel. (We have to get the boat the Stanley in time for an expedition of climber going to South Georgia near Antarctica).

We are still fishing but have caught nothing. On our previous trip we caught massive tuna within a few hours of putting our line out. This line has been our for days and nothing… As is the way of the fisherman, we fiddle and faff with lures and tracers and different distance trawls, all to no avail. It does give us something to do though.

Thomas made a risotto for dinner. Thomas does not come across as the kind of person who could make a risotto, but he nailed it. I think he was lucky. Not complaining.

Chris showed his face briefly but now Paula is starting to look a bit grim. So far the only people that have not got sick are myself and Thomas. I keep wiping down all the surfaces with disinfectant in a probably futile attempt at trying to pretend like I’m not living in a caravan with plague victims. Thomas reckons it’s his diet of black coffee and tobacco that is keeping him healthy. Not sure what’s keeping me immune.


We have some new kit on the boat this year. In fact everything in this photo, except the radio (top left), is brand new and was installed in the days before we left. That might sound a little risky but surprisingly nothing in the photo is essential and we have backups for anything important.

I’ll run you through the photo: Top left we have the radio. The funny hole directly below it is where the fancy new radio was meant to go but that died shortly after installation so we reverted to the old one. Most modern equipment is networked, so the radio is getting our GPS coordinates from a black box under that desk. Just to the left of that red button is a small plastic cover with a smaller red “distress” button underneath it. If someone where to lift that cover and press that button, the radio would start to transmit a digitally encoded distress signal with our boat’s unique registration number and our coordinates. Any vessel in range with a DSC (Digital Selective Calling) system on board (which is most of them) would start to have alarms go off and see our details on their screen. That said, we haven’t heard the radio peep for days. There have been no vessels in VHF range for days, so that distress button would be useless. In another post I’ll explain EPIRB, which uses satellites and is how we would let the world know if we were really in trouble.

Next we have all the displays . It’s important to note that most modern displays are “multifunction” which basically means it’s just a screen and you can select what you want it to show. What we’ve got up on the screens in the photo is just how it was at that point in time. We’re constantly changing things depending on the conditions.

The first screen, top left, is showing our latitude and longitude, our SOG (Speed Over Ground, which uses GPS) and our COG (Course Over Ground) which is the resultant direction we are travelling in. When you’re sailing there are lots of forces pushing the boat in different directions and the result of them, the direction you’re actually travelling in, is hardly ever the direction your bow is pointing in.

The screen below that is for wind. It shows the wind angle and speed relative to the direction we’re heading in.

The big screen is a multi-purpose. It’s currently showing a chartplotter which displays our historic track and current heading. If there were any ships within VHF range we’d probably see them on the plotter as AIS blips (I’ll explain that in another post). This screen gets changed to the radar output at night and can even be used to show the output of our FLIR passive infra-red thermal camera.

To the right of the big screen (showing “305°“) is the autopilot control. There are various ways to use an autopilot (compass angle, angle to the wind, waypoint etc). Currently it’s set to a compass angle and is trying to maintain a course of 305°.

To the right of that is another multifunction display which is showing the local time (GMT is on a different clock not in this picture), another COG and SOG, the average wind speed and the times for sunset and sunrise.

To the right of that is the FLIR camera control which is turned off. I’ll post a video showing off the FLIR camera in a future post.

At night everything is dimmed and set to night colours so that we don’t lose our night vision. Even with all the technology in the world you still need someone awake at all times scanning the horizon for lights and looking after the sails.

Underneath the two laptops are the paper charts for the area we’re currently in, and the big red book is our logbook which gets an entry every hour on the hour.


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