Half Way

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 16 Jan 2011 18:35

Noon Position: 17 42.5 S 107 09.0 W
Course: 280 Speed: 5.5 Knots
Wind: East sou’ east F3-4 Gentle to Moderate breeze
Weather: Overcast, warm
Day’s Run: 139 miles

I found myself growing a little grim about the gills yesterday, allowing my thoughts to dwell on what might have been rather than focusing on the adventures of the moment. So yesterday afternoon I gave myself a bucket shower of refreshing cool seawater, rinsed off with a little fresh and gave myself a shave. Then I shelved Camus and broke out old Josh Slocum instead. I read the section on the Spray’s voyage which parallels our own at this point. Josh Slocum’s upbeat and down to earth attitude which shines through all his writing helped to lift my spirits enormously. Slocum makes an insightful comment when he said “There was no end of companionship; the very reefs kept me company, or gave me no time to feel lonely, which is the same thing, and there were many of them now in my course to Samoa.” Which I think is to say the way to fight off loneliness is to keep busy. One of the problems of today is that with instantaneous GPS navigation much of what used to be the daily routine at sea, ie the navigation is no longer necessary. I have in the past turned the GPS off and relied on celestial navigation but of course it isn’t the same, knowing one can turn the machine back on at any time you like, there is no sense of importance to what you are doing or excitement or even fear as one makes landfall or navigates around reefs and other hazards. One day I may throw the damn thing over the side and risk being an irresponsible luddite.

“To cross the Pacific Ocean, even under the most favorable circumstances, brings you for many days close to nature, and you realize the vastness of the sea. Slowly but surely the mark of my little ship’s course on the track-chart reached out on the ocean and across it, while at her utmost speed she marked with her keel still slowly the sea that carried her. On the forty-third day from land, - a long time to be at sea alone, - the sky being beautifully clear and the moon ‘in distance” with the sun, I threw up my sextant for sights. I found from the result of three observations, after long wrestling with lunar tables, that her longitude by observation agreed within five miles of that by dead-reckoning.” Those of us now ancient enough to have had to learn and use celestial navigation prior to the advent of satellite navigation will tell you that this is an amazing feat, especially using lunars, for Josh had no chronometer. Even old Josh acknowledges it as such, and he is not a boastful man, if anything quite the opposite, which is a large part of the charm of his book, he is always so understated, not like a typical Yankee at all.

“I hope I am making it clear that I do not lay claim to cleverness or to slavish calculations in my reckonings. I think that I have already stated that I kept my longitude, at least, mostly by intuition. A rotator log always towed astern, but so much has to be allowed for currents and for drift, which never shows, that it is only an approximation, after all, to be corrected by one’s own judgement from data of a thousand voyages; even then the master of his the ship, if he be wise, cries out for the lead* and a lookout.” [*lead line for finding the depth of water]

Which reminds me my rotator log no longer has a rotator, it broke off back in the Atlantic. These are antiques now and getting replacement impellors are impossible so today I am going to try and make one. Having read the above passage yesterday I spent quite a bit of time last night pondering this problem and now have an idea of how I could do it. The big problem will be, if it does work, to get it spinning at close to the right rate, but we will solve that problem when we get that far.

Slocum sailed directly from Robinson Crusoe Island to Samoa, passing by the Marquesas en route, 72 days non stop. I am not made of such stuff as he I am sorry to say, but he was sailing outside the cyclone season so could press on whereas we cannot, not to mention my broken tooth. Speaking of which thankyou to Chris’s wife, Cate who is a dentist, she has given me advice as to what I should do - oil of cloves and chewing gum seem to be doing the trick. I do not normally use chewing gum but fortunately someone who will remain nameless left some behind.

I got a weather fax in and see T.C. Zelia over the Coral Sea. While I often decry the advent of GPS I have to admit it is good to have the technology to be able to track these things.

At 20.00 yesterday passed the half way point to the Marquesas.

And full marks to Jan, he spotted the ‘deliberate mistake’ I made two days ago, it should have read the “100th meridian of west longitude“, not east. Got to keep him on his toes.

All is well.