Novice Lunarian

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 10 Jun 2011 02:40

Noon Position: 22 05.8 S 173 15.0 E
West sou' west, Speed: 5 knots
South east, F3 gentle breeze
Sunny, warm
Day's run: 112 miles

Today, with great fanfare and ceremony, I graduated myself from Apprentice Lunarian to Novice Lunarian. Hooray!

After much calculation and recalculation, plotting of graphs, scratching of head, and looking up of tables several times, I eventually came up with a solution which has the ship's chronometer only 2 minutes and 31 seconds slow. This is still too large an error, as 1 minute of time is the equivalent of 15 minutes of longitude so that means an error of this magnitude would lead to an error in position of 37.5 minutes of longitude, which at the equator is near as damn it to 37.5 nautical miles. But at least it is in the ball park. And considering that one minute of time when calculating lunar distances is the equivalent of only 0.5 minutes of arc on the sextant (that's a tiny 1/120th of one degree) it means all my errors combined only add up to less than 1.5 minutes, which in normal small boat celestial navigation is actually quite good.

So for now I will be satisfied with my novice status, and it occurs to me that the novice lunarian is perhaps a subset of that much larger group, namely advanced nerds, which is not such a cool thing, but perhaps when you get to guru lunarian status then you enter a whole unrealised field of being, such as old Josh seemed to be in. Some how I do not think I will aspire to such dizzy heights. I am happy that I have been able to understand the principles involved and realise a respectable solution. So now what shall I do?

Last night was rather ordinary, the wind dropped a little but as sometimes happens the seas didn't follow, instead they got short and lumpy, Sylph rolled sharply from side to side, the sails slatted and my nerves were frazzled. I tried altering course to get a better angle to the seas but it didn't help and at 4 a.m. I dropped the mainsail and rolled up half the jib to try and prevent any more wear and tear to Sylph's gear but still make a little way. Fortunately just before midday the wind freshened a bit, enough to keep the mainsail full, despite the rolling, which in turn helps to dampen the roll, so we are now back under full sail again. We are heading a little further south than I really want but this is being dictated by the wind angle and also I believe the short seas are being caused by the very uneven bottom topography here abouts, namely Hunter Ridge which rises up to within 1000 meters of the surface from an ocean floor of around 3000 meters and then drops again into the South New Hebrides Trench which is in places over 6000 meters deep. I am hoping once we are clear of this area then the seas may smooth out again and we may enjoy some more tranquillity.

All is well.