Fair and foul, then fickle, now fair

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 10 Dec 2012 03:51
Noon position: 38 15.3 S 148 08.5 E
Course: South-west Speed: 5 knots
Wind: South-east F4 moderate breeze
Weather: sunny and mild
Days Run: 10 Nm

We are at last making ground in the right direction. After spending all of Saturday night heaved to in near gale force winds, dodging oil rigs, we spent most of last night drifting with not even enough wind to keep the sails from slatting in the left over sea and swell. Now, instead of worrying whether we were going to get blown onto an oil rig, I was worried about drifting into one. I even thought we might be causing the oil rig people a little bit of concern because an oil rig tender spent the night steaming in slow circles around us. I spoke with them on the radio this morning. The guy who answered was very chirpy. He told me they were a floating warehouse at the moment and were on their way back to Westernport for more supplies. It sounded like they were steaming circles around me for something to do.

Late this morning, when we were just starting to make some way with the gentle breeze which had sprung up, as the sun was shining warmly on my skin, I took the opportunity to have a bucket bath. Unfortunately, as I lowered the bucket over the side on its lanyard, the water grabbed the bucket, ripped the handle off, and left me holding a lanyard with no bucket. I looked astern as the bucket gradually receded. I thought of an article I had recently read in the “Afloat” magazine, about all the plastic in the oceans, and the number of birds that are dying due to ingesting the stuff. Apparently the oceans are completely contaminated with plastics, and while one small bucket wasn't going to make much difference, nonetheless I did not want to add to it. I looked around about. As usual Sylph was in cruising mode, wheel lashed, boom preventer on, and wind vane steering connected. But I had to have a go. I unlashed the wheel, spun it around, adjusted the windvane for the new course, loosened off the vang preventer, and let go the headsail sheet. As we came sedately around (Sylph is rarely in a hurry to do anything), the bucket was still in sight. I adjusted sails and lined it up. As we got closer I rounded up into the wind. It passed close down the port side but by the time I had gotten the boat hook out it had drifted past. Bother! I had another attempt but unfortunately by this time I think the bucket had sunk, at least I was not able to sight it again. We continued, a little disconsolately, on our way.

I am sure this is pretty much how the vast majority of all the plastic has come to be in the oceans. Not through deliberate dumping, though undoubtedly this is a contributing factor, but rather I suspect it is the shopping bag that gets blown away in the wind, or the fishing net that gets snagged on a rock and torn off, the containers full of plastic commodities that get washed overboard in a storm, and all the other stuff that happens by accident. I know many of us are doing our best, but still, if we want our grandchildren to have a half way inhabitable planet, I suspect we are going to have to do a whole lot better. And I read that the outlook for global warming does not look very encouraging. I wonder if anyone will ever recover my time capsule from the glacier in Greenland. And, if they do, I wonder what they will think of this naïve Australian sailor who foolishly thought he might be able to make a difference. Oh well, we can but try.

Hmm. What can we do next?

All is well.