Improving Slowly

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 5 Jun 2012 05:45

Alongside American River, Kangaroo Island
Wind: South east F4-6, moderate to strong breeze
Weather: partly cloudy, showers, cool

After another windy night conditions are now starting to slowly improve and I am hopeful that we might be able to depart American River sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime I have been keeping myself busy. I have not been able to go very far from the boat because the wind, chop and tide has required frequent adjustment of lines and fenders, including getting up several times during the night. While stuck on board yesterday I undertook an interesting challenge, namely to make a new horizon mirror for Sylph's sextant. The silver on the back of the original mirror was badly tarnished and the mirror's edge was useless. I had found a cheap mirror of the right diameter at a car parts shop, one used for inspecting round corners. I had to carefully prise the mirror away from its holder which was time consuming and incurred a few anxious moments when I thought I was bound to break it. Once free of the holder I had to scrape off half the silver so that you could see through one half to the horizon and the other half would reflect the celestial object from the index mirror. I eventually managed to scrape the silver off to my satisfaction, though it isn't perfect it will have to do and is better then the original. The new mirror was also significantly thinner then the original so this also required three small plastic padding pieces to be cut and placed where needed. It is all back together now, I have made some initial adjustments to take out the side and index error, it all looks good but the proof will of course be when I next try it. In the meantime if anyone has a spare horizon mirror sculling around with a 50 mm diameter that they do not want I will be quite happy to take it off your hands. Not something which is too easy to come by these days.

On Sunday I had a visit from two interesting people, Greg and Tony. They have in mind to build a replica of the first ship built in South Australian waters, namely the Independence, built here on Kangaroo Island in 1803 by the crew of an American sealing vessel, the Union. Independence was very small, only 40 odd feet, so in length about the same size as Sylph. She was reportedly of 35 tons, vice Sylph's 11, but tonnage is a very confusing figure back in those days and was generally a measurement of cargo carrying capacity for taxation purposes, not a displacement figure we more commonly use today. She supposedly carried a crew of 28 at one point which I find a little incredible, where were the stores and cargo supposed to go? She sailed to Antipodes Island some 500 nm southeast of the South Island of New Zealand where she was presumed lost in 1806, so rather a short life, which is not surprising visiting such out of the way places in such a small vessel back at that time. There is a lot of conjecture as to what she might have looked like and Greg and Tony spoke to me about the feasibility of their plan. I was initially a little sceptical about making such a small vessel earn its keep but after seeing their plans and discussing it with them for a bit I concluded that it might just work. I reckon the plans they have for the vessel are based on what I would call and American colonial schooner, from the late 18th century, and suspect that for the Independence to have been built in the remote regions of Kangaroo Island with very limited facilities, material and time (she was supposed to have been completed within four months) she would have had to have been significantly simpler then their drawings suggest. Nonetheless the vessel they have in mind is very attractive and I am sure could be an excellent attraction for visitors to the Island.

And of course I have been doing a little reading. I have been trying to get into Marcel Proust's classic work, In Search of Lost Time, but am finding it very slow going, a lot of words to inexhaustibly explore the minutiae of a young boy in love – I think; but of course there is a lot more to it then that (I hope) as there is so much more to read. I finished the first volume last year, this is the second and there are five more to go. I have a very strong suspicion it is a little beyond me and I am not convinced that it is worth the effort. Oh well, it never hurts to try and extend oneself, and I haven't even read all of Shakespeare yet (in progress – finding Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets, A New Commentary by Don Patterson much more entertaining). And then there is my birthday present I haven't started on yet. Argh! I think I need to go for another very long sail.

Meanwhile RC does what cats do best.

All is well.


The new horizon mirror: